Sudan’s army has taken control of the country and declared a state of emergency. But protesters vowed to continue demonstrations until civilian rule is established.

Sudan’s army has forced Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, who ruled the country with an iron fist for 30 years, to step down after months of nationwide protests.

Addressing the nation on state-run television, Defence Minister Awad Ibn Ouf said that Bashir is under arrest in a "safe place" and a military council was now running the country.

Seated on a gold-upholstered armchair, Auf announced a three-month state of emergency, a nationwide ceasefire and the suspension of the constitution. He also said Sudan's air space would be closed for 24 hours and border crossings shut until further notice.

The army’s seizure of power followed an apparent split within its ranks this week when some units sided with the protesters and protected them against security forces allied with the president.

Bashir’s removal completes a hattrick of getting rid of authoritarian regimes through popular uprisings; first, the Ibrahim Abboud regime in 1964, and then in 1985 against Jaafar Nimeiri.

Thousands of Sudanese demonstrators cheer and hold up victory signs as they celebrate the end of Omar al Bashir's rule announced by the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan on April 11, 2019.
Thousands of Sudanese demonstrators cheer and hold up victory signs as they celebrate the end of Omar al Bashir's rule announced by the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan on April 11, 2019. (Reuters)

"Sisi 2.0"

However, demonstrators called for a civilian government and said they would not accept an administration led by military and security figures, or by Bashir's aides. Auf was Bashir’s vice president in addition to being his government’s defence minister.

Referring to President Abdel Fattah el Sisi’s general taking over in Egypt in 2013, Ahmed Kodouda, a Sudanese political analyst, called the army take over “Sisi 2.0”. 

“It’s reminiscent of what happened in Egypt. The regime has maintained its structural pillars, but simply removed the facade,” Kodouda told TRT World, “Bashir will most certainly have a soft landing as coup-plotters are equally culpable of similar crimes.”

The Sudanese Professional Association, the main organiser behind the protests, released a statement after the army’s announcement. 

The army, the statement said, seeks to “to steal every drop of blood and sweat poured by the great Sudanese people in its revolution that has shaken the throne of tyranny.”

The group promised that it would not leave the streets. 

“We are able to seize the fields and roads that we forcibly liberated until the handover of power to a civilian transitional government that reflects the forces of the revolution,” it stated.

In this file photo taken on July 7, 1989, Revolutionary Council ruler and military coup leader General Omar al-Bashir (C) addresses other Revolutionary Council military officers during a graduation ceremony at the Sudanese Military Academy.
In this file photo taken on July 7, 1989, Revolutionary Council ruler and military coup leader General Omar al-Bashir (C) addresses other Revolutionary Council military officers during a graduation ceremony at the Sudanese Military Academy. (AFP)

A new era in Sudan

Bashir’s resignation will indeed open a new chapter in Sudan’s history. He ruled Sudan longer than any other leader since the country’s gained independence in 1956. 

Under his rule, the vast northeastern African nation, which is often referred to as a bridge between the Arab and African world, has been constantly plagued by armed conflicts and major economic crises.

As the conflict in the impoverished Darfur region left an estimated 300,000 people dead, the International Criminal Court issued two arrest warrants in 2009 and in 2010 for Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.  

While the US trade embargo had done considerable damage to Sudan’s economy, it took a major hit when Africa’s biggest nation split and the country of South Sudan came into being in 2011. Its oil-dependent economy witnessed a major blow as it lost 75 percent of its oil reserves with the secession of South Sudan. 

However, one of the main triggers of the protests was the rising price of bread. Sudan is a country blessed with ample fertile land and has the potential to be the breadbasket for the Arab world. When the government tripled bread prices after a three-week shortage, the simmering discontentment of the Sudanese sparked into ballooning protests across the country.

In this file photo taken on March 14, 2019 Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir (C) sits among his Defence Minister Awad Ibn Ouf (L) and Prime Minister Mohamed Tahir Eila (R) as they pose for a group photo with members of the new 20-member cabinet taking oath at the presidential palace in Khartoum.
In this file photo taken on March 14, 2019 Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir (C) sits among his Defence Minister Awad Ibn Ouf (L) and Prime Minister Mohamed Tahir Eila (R) as they pose for a group photo with members of the new 20-member cabinet taking oath at the presidential palace in Khartoum. (AFP)

"The heart of the regime remains"

Omar Saleh Sennar, a senior member of the Sudanese Professionals Association, said it expected to negotiate with the military over a transfer of power. "We will only accept a transitional civilian government," Sennar said.

Kamal Omar, a 38-year-old demonstrator, said: "We will continue our sit-in until we prevail."

The Sudanese army has said it will take two years for the ‘transition period’ to take place and has announced that a 10pm curfew will be in place for one month, and political prisoners will be released. 

Protesters and Sudanese analysts alike aren’t convinced that the army takeover is the change they demanded as the heart of the regime remains in place.