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One year later: Sudanese celebrate Bashir's fall from grace


On the first anniversary of the protest movement that led to the fall of the Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir regime after a 30-year authoritarian rule, a Ugandan court issued an arrest warrant for the fallen leader, highlighting the depth of his fall from grace.

In December 2018, the first demonstrations broke out in Atbara, as well as in Port Sudan, the country’s main port 1,000 km east of the capital, and in Nhoud (west). The movement spread to other parts of the country, including Khartoum.

The army dismissed Omar al-Bashir on 11 April, but tried to keep control of the transition, but faced a determined rejection of the street.

Following an agreement reached in August between the army and the protest, the country is led by a transitional government, with a civilian Prime Minister and a Sovereign Council composed of civilians and military, responsible for leading the process for three years, with a view to free elections.

Celebrating Bashir’s fall

To pay tribute to the pioneers of the Atbara revolution 350 kilometres from Khartoum, a train full of hundreds of people left Bahri near Khartoum for the northeastern working class city that hosted the first rallies in December 2018 after the sudden announcement of the tripling of bread prices.

Singing, dancing and carrying Sudanese flags, the participants boarded the train, which quickly proved to be full, said an AFP journalist. For those who stayed at the platform and wanted to go to Atbara, the authorities planned several buses and another train, which left shortly after, just as full of passengers.

Limia Osman, 23, in t-shirt and pants, waving a national flag. As she boarded the train, she said she wanted to “say thank you” to the demonstrators in Atbara.

This symbolic event, organized by the transitional government and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FLC), the main organization of the protest, echoes the Atbara demonstrator trains sent to Khartoum during the protest.

The demonstrators are invited to stay on site until 25 December for a full week of festivities.

In Khartoum, several districts will host celebrations on Thursday evening. The large Green Yard garden, renamed “Place de la Liberté”, will be one of the main venues for the festivities.

“The government of the Sudanese revolution will celebrate the anniversary of the peaceful revolution throughout December,” Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok recently promised, appointed after lengthy negotiations between the army and the protesters.

On Thursday morning, in the capital, the army blocked the access roads to its headquarters, a high point of the protest where demonstrators had organized a sit-in for weeks to put pressure on the military in favour of a civilian regime.

Uganda’s arrest warrant

The International Crimes Division of the High Court in Uganda on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for Bashir, ruling that Ugandan authorities should have arrested the Sudanese leader when he visited the country in 2017.

Justice Dr Henry Peter Adonyo added that Uganda’s failure to arrest Bashir was in violation of its national and international obligations, since it is required to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) whenever it is requested to do so under terms of the Rome Statute.

This application filed by the Uganda Victims Foundation dates back to 2017 when Bashir as then President of Sudan and wanted by the ICC, visited Uganda.

Uganda was one of many friendly countries that Bashir visited as he sought to demonstrate that he was not cowed by the ICC arrest warrant.

ICC prosecution

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, on Wednesday sought the support of the Security Council to push Sudan’s new leaders to hand over Bashir to face war crimes charges.

Bashir and five others were indicted by the ICC in 2008 for war crimes and crimes against humanity alleged committed in Darfur.

“Sudan must ensure that the five ICC suspects in the Darfur situation are brought to justice without undue delay, either in a courtroom in Sudan or in The Hague. In this way, this Council’s referral of the Darfur situation to my Office can finally yield tangible results in court for the victims this Council sought to protect, and progress can be made towards resolving this Council’s referral of the Darfur situation to the ICC.” For his part, the Sudanese Ambassador to the UN said Khartoum was committed to fighting impunity.

Sudan’s new leaders have been inundated by calls to extradite Bashir to the ICC. So far, the country’s leaders have been reluctant. Since his removal from power, Bashir has faced several charges of corruption . He’s also being investigated on charges of ordering the killing of protestors and for his role in the 1989 coup.

Convicting Bashir

Last week, a court in Sudan convicted the former president of money laundering and corruption, sentencing him to two years in a minimum security lockup.

This was the first verdict in a series of legal proceedings against al-Bashir, who is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and genocide linked to the Darfur conflict in the 2000s.

Bashir has been in custody since April, when Sudan’s military ousted him after months of nationwide protests.

Sudan’s military has said it would not extradite him to the ICC.

The country’s military-civilian transitional government has not indicated whether they will hand him over to the The Hague.

Under Sudanese law, al-Bashir, 75, will be sent to a state-run lockup for elderly people who are convicted of crimes not punishable with death.

But he will remain in jail amid an ongoing trial on separate charges regarding the killing of protesters in the months prior to his ouster.

READ MORE: Sudan reacts to Bashir’s first sentencingWhat next?

In a statement issued Thursday morning, Amnesty welcomed the opportunity for Sudanese to “celebrate the fact that their collective action has put an end to stifling repression and given hope for a better future”.

However, the NGO recalled that the transitional government must “honour its commitment to restore the rule of law”. It also reiterated the need to extradite Bashir to the Hague, where the ICC is based.

In a report on crimes in Darfur published on Wednesday, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) called on the international community to put pressure on Sudan “to facilitate access to justice (…) for all victims, including those of sexual violence”.

At the same time, the country faces significant economic challenges.

One year after the beginning of the dispute, it is still suffering the effects of the American economic embargo (1997-2017): Washington keeps it on its black list of “States supporting terrorism”, which effectively excludes it from the international financial system and blocks foreign investment.

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