By Elizabeth Kendal — Originally published in Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin
Protests erupted in Khartoum on December 19 2018 after the government trebled the price of bread. However, the protests were, and still are, about much more than bread.
In Sudan’s 1986 general election, Hassan al-Turabi’s hard-line Islamist and Arab-supremacist, Khartoum-centric party, the National Islamic Front (NIF), came in third, winning only 50 of the parliament’s 260 seats. In 1989 the moderate and centrist government-brokered peace with the Southerners (Christians) by agreeing not to enforce Islamic Sharia law.
The NIF responded by working with Islamist and Arab-supremacist Colonel Omar al-Bashir to seize power in a military coup. This unpopular and unrepresentative dictatorship — a marriage between the NIF and al-Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) — then forced its will on all Sudan’s diverse peoples. It also waged jihad (Islamic holy war) against all who objected, including the African Christians of the Nuba Mountains and south Sudan, the African Muslims of Darfur in the west; and more recently in the “new south” regions of Abyei and South Kordofan (African Christian) and Blue Nile (African Muslim).
Endless racial and religious hatred, endless war and famine, the break-up of Sudan, the destruction of the economy, endless hardship — these are the legacy of Omar al-Bashir and the NIF/NCP Government of Sudan (GoS). After 30 years, the people have had enough! [see RLPB 487 (Jan 30 2019)].
On Friday February 22 al-Bashir declared a state of emergency and deployed his militias against the people [see RLPB 491 (Feb 27)]. But the protesters — led primarily by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) — would not surrender. As violence escalated, the military turned and, on April 11, Omar al-Bashir was himself ousted by his own military.
The military then established a 10-member Transitional Military Council (TMC) to rule in al-Bashir’s stead. However, the people would not have it; especially since the deputy head of the TMC was none other than Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’ Dagalo, the head the government’s infamous Rapid Support Forces (successor to the infamous Janjaweed militia) which is administered by the infamous National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS)! Protests continued with the same demands: civilian representative government with the Army as the cornerstone of security and defence.
Whilst Christians had been participating (and dying) in the protests from the beginning, the vulnerable and long-persecuted Church had refrained from taking an official position, deeming it simply too dangerous. However, with al-Bashir’s ousting, the Church stepped up, officially and publicly taking a stand – as the Church – with the opposition, to the delight of all the protesters [see RLPB 499 (April 24)].
On April 30 a convoy of supporters arrived in Khartoum from Darfur. On May 1 a convoy arrived from the Nuba Mountains. The SPA encouraged protesters to decorate the streets with murals expressing the will of the people. Themes include religious and ethnic harmony and a desire for “Sudaxit” (Sudan’s exit from the Arab League) on the grounds that “We are black people, the sons of Kushites”.
On Thursday May 2 protest leaders handed the TMC a document containing the demands of the “Forces of the Declaration for Freedom and Change”.
On Tuesday May 7 the TMC responded, declaring that there were several issues it could not accept. In particular, the TMC was “disappointed” that the protest leaders saw no role for Islamic Sharia law. The TMC insists that Sharia should remain the basis of the constitution. On May 8 protest leaders rejected the TMC’s rejection. Omar Youssef, a protest leader with the Sudanese Congress Party, told reporters: “Issues like Sharia [Islamic law] and the language of the state [Arabic], those are ideological weapons the former regime kept using to divide the people … between Muslims and non-Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs. We are not willing to stand for this game.”
As Salah Aldoma, a Sudanese political analyst observed: “The Sudanese revolution is against political Islam …”
Talks resumed on Monday May 14, but the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) were out in force dispersing protesters with tear gas. In the evening, unidentified gunmen opened fire; a policeman and at least five protesters were killed and dozens wounded, some critically.
Talks were due to continue through Wednesday May 15, at which point, if their demands were not met, the opposition were expected to launch further civil disobedience. The protests have reached a pivotal point. The “New Sudan” envisaged by the late Dr John Garang is in sight, but not yet in hand. These are incredibly dangerous, watershed days.
Please pray specifically that God will:
* break through all resistance in Khartoum, so that those striving at great risk for peace, unity and liberty will attain it and so that the Gospel might resume its advance, not only among “the sons of the Kushites”, but among Arabs and all the diverse peoples of Sudan.
“Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon; behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush [Nubia / historic, African Sudan] …” (from Psalm 87 ESV)
” ‘The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.’ Therefore, the name of that place is called Baal-perazim” [which means the Lord of breaking through, or the Lord who bursts through]. — 2 Samuel 5:20 ESV
* “bind the strong man” (Satan) so that the Islamist “deep state” will indeed be swept away — leaderless, powerless, unable to wreak havoc — so that the people may be truly liberated and redeemed. (see Mark 3:22-27)
* preserve and sustain his long-suffering precious Church in Sudan; may she have wisdom to navigate the path ahead and effectual power from the Holy Spirit as she testifies to the grace, mercy and wisdom of God in Jesus Christ.