In Depth

What’s happening in Sudan?

Ousted former dictator could face years in jail on corruption charges

Omar al-Bashir, the ousted president of Sudan, arrived in court today for the first hearing of a high-profile trial that could see the former dictator jailed for years.

Bashir, 75, who took office in 1989, was removed from power in April after months of protests supported by government troops, and has been in detention since.

According to The Guardian, Bashir was informed by the prosecutor’s office on Monday morning that he faces charges of “possessing foreign currency, corruption and receiving gifts illegally”, but activists hope that he will “also face further charges of incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters”.

In June, prosecutors said a large hoard of foreign currency had been found in grain sacks at his home.

The start of the trial coincides with a landmark deal struck between pro-democracy activists and the country’s military leaders to pave the way for free and fair elections, bringing to an end months of tension between the civilian population and the army.

How is the ongoing situation in Sudan unfolding, and what might the future hold?

What is Bashir being tried for?

According to the BBC, the former president faces charges related to “possessing foreign currency, corruption and receiving gifts illegally”

These charges relate mainly to the reported discovery of more than $113m (£93m) worth of cash in Sudanese pounds and foreign currency in the ousted leader’s house in April. He and his legal team deny the claims.

However, in May Sudan’s public prosecutor also charged Bashir with “incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters”, stemming from an inquiry into the death of a doctor killed during protests.

What is the current situation in Sudan?

Sudan had been riven by political divisions since the overthrow of Bashir, with the military and protesters engaged in violent clashes over who should run the country. This culminated in security forces launching bloody raids on protest camps in June in which more than 100 people were killed and dozens raped.

However Sudan’s main opposition coalition and the military council have now formally signed a final power-sharing deal, paving the way for a transition to a civilian-led government.

The landmark agreement signed on Saturday in the capital Khartoum will likely come as a relief to the international community, members of whom had expressed fears that the extreme violence might descend into Sudan’s third full-scale civil war in 60 years.

What happened in April?

Bashir ruled Sudan for 30 years, during which he faced repeated accusations of corruption and was found guilty of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, following the outbreak of violence in the Darfur region of the country in 2003.  

Growing anger against his regime eventually led to demonstrations in summer 2018 that culminated in violence between Sudanese security forces and protesters earlier this year. 

On 11 April, military leaders claimed they had forced Bashir to step down and had taken control of the government.

In a televised statement on the day that Bashir was ousted, Minister of Defence Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf took a strongly populist stance, claiming that after “examining what’s going on in the state and the corruption that is going on”,  it was clear that a coup had been coming “for a long time”.

“The poor are poorer and the rich are still rich and there are no equal chances for the same people,” he said. 

The military later confirmed that the ousted president had been arrested, and that the TMC would be running the country until elections could be arranged.

Leading activists immediately warned that they “[would] not accept a military government”, citing the military’s lack of transparency and unclear allegiances, Al Jazeera reports.

Why was there a coup?

In the early years of Bashir’s reign, there were “pockets full of dollars as the oil flowed, controls were lifted and the telecommunications system revolutionised”, says the BBC.  

But the economy has “floundered since the secession of the South, which took three-quarters of the country’s oil with it”, the broadcaster continues.

Unemployment, corruption and a rise in the cost of living eventually drove discontented Sudanese out onto the streets for the mass protests.

Bashir’s regime also faced growing opposition from outside Sudan.

Following the outbreak of violence in the Darfur region, Bashir was condemned for his tacit support of the pro-government Arab-Sudanese militia Janjaweed, which murdered more than 300,000 non-Arab Sudanese living in the region and displaced a further 1.2 million.

In 2008, the International Criminal Court filed charges against Bashir for genocide and war crimes in Darfur. Yet repeated attempts to bring him to justice proved unsuccessful, and he subsequently won re-election in 2010 and 2015.

However, his last victory was marred by a boycott from the main opposition parties. 

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