THE BLUE NILE IS TURNING RED
Illustration by Demira Padayachee
Massacres and other tremendous brutalities put Sudan in a humanitarian and political crisis. While the media blackout in the African country deprives many from using their voices, we urge readers to join the global conversation and to spread awareness. Our silence is lethal, but power lays in the voice of the people.
Words: Aleksandra Georgieva
24 June 2019
Sudan is under a major political and humanitarian crisis following a transition period after the ousting of Omar al-Bashir on 11 April. Not only did the Sudanese President rule with dictatorship for 30 years, but he also turned into one of the longest-ruling African leaders.
It could be said that tension in Sudan started building up back in December 2018. President Bashir's government issued emergency austerity measures. The limitations to necessities such as food and fuel provoked outrages over living standards and an economic collapse. Demonstrations demanded the army forced the removal of President Omar al-Bashir. On 6 April they gathered in front of the military’s headquarters and five days later the president was overthrown.
Diverse, well-organised and peaceful protest movement raised hopes of the locals. The organization is led by lawyers, health workers and doctors, who from the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA). Women are powerful representatives of the opposition. A video went viral on social media showing a woman, who inspires demonstrators to fight against the political dictatorship in Sudan. She was named Kandaka, meaning Nubian queen.
Protest organisers came together and formed the Alliance for Freedom and Change group to discuss the political crisis with ruling generals. Representatives addressed the issue of the country’s need for more inclusive rule and transition to civilian administration. On 15 May both parties reached an agreement on a new government with a cabinet, legislative body and a sovereign council. They also decided that civilian-led rule will take place after a three-year transition period, to allow time to dismantle Mr. Bashir's regime and have fair elections.
Yet, the old military regime continued to thrive. Negotiations collapsed on 3 June after security forces in the capital city Khartoum left at least 30 pro-democracy protesters dead. Shortly after that the army scheduled elections to be held within nine months instead of the initial three-years agreement.
Transitional Military Council (TMC) is a seven-member council of generals, led by Lt-Gen Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan. The council took charge on 11 April stating it would ensure the country’s security. After the brutal attack on 3June, the military was internationally condemned. In response the TMC expressed "sorrow for the way events escalated".
After the violent killings, pro-democracy protestors initiated a general strike and put an end to all contact with the TMC. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed travelled to Sudan and after two weeks reached a new agreement between the two parties – protest leaders opened to negotiations and ended the strikes, while the military promised the release of political prisoners.
Illustration by Louna
Sudan is located on one of the most geostrategic regions of the continent. History remembers the country as the bridge between North and sub-Saharan Africa. Sudan also has access to the Horn and to a long Red Sea coastline area.
The Internet access in Sudan was cut off nationwide in attempt to end the mass protests and to silence the people. The Sudanese Professionals Association makes official announcements to over 800,000 Facebook followers, but locals now have no access to the social media platform.
The peaceful sit-in protest outside the military headquarters on 3 June was answered by the security forces with a brutal crackdown. The massacre issued local outrage. Many children, women and men were injured, raped and killed. According to doctors 40 bodies were dumped into the River Nile.
In response, TMC shut down the internet access in the country, stating this was in the interests of "national security". Pro-democracy demonstrators not only struggle to communicate but also have no access to their trusted news sources. The campus of University of Khartoum alongside key locations where Sudan's revolutionaries used to gather are now in ashes.
After the crackdown, people in the are were desperate to contact their loved ones. According to local newspapers, apart from isolating the people of Sudan from the rest of the world, the shutdown of internet access costs businesses millions. This is problematic for the country, since Sudan had already faced an economic crisis at the end of last year when the government issued emergency austerity measures.
In solidarity with the Sudanese people and against the ongoing violence social media users are turning their profile photos blue. On 3 June, 26-year-old engineer and activist Mohamed Mattar was part of the peaceful protest of the opposition in front of the military headquarters. During the crackdown he was fatally shot while reportedly trying to protect two women from the brutalities.
After Mattar’s murder his friends and family changed their profile pictures online in his favourite colour and soon enough other people followed. Amid the Sudan internet blackout, the hashtag #BlueforSudan gathered global significance and became trending across platforms including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
500 + KILLED
720 + INJURED
54 + RAPED
650 + ARRESTED
1000 + MISSING
118+ BODIES INTO THE RIVER NILE
Illustration by Noran Fikri
The Sudan humanitarian and political crisis has escalated, and the media blackout only makes the spreading of information more difficult on both national and global scale. People can only communicate with their families in the conflicted African country through telephone, which is nowhere near enough.
Human rights have been violated and many have been killed. The people of Sudan have been deprived of using their voices to spread awareness of the events. It is vital that those, who can use their voice to spread awareness, do not look away from the brutalities taking place in Sudan with a light heart. The country is bleeding, but we have the power to provoke change. Our silence is lethal, but our voices are the weapons that spark conversations and provoke change.
Speak up for those, who cannot. Use your voice and take part in an educated discussion. Don’t stand on the side lines, in silence, watching the blue Nile turn red.