Khartoum – After 16 weeks of protests across Sudan in which protesters marched and sang revolutionary songs calling for the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir, he finally capitulated and resigned on Thursday in the capital Khartoum. His resignation brings to an end one of the longest running and most draconian regimes on the African continent.
Al-Bashir, the iron-fisted ruler who came to power in a coup that ousted the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi in 1989, has finally capitulated to the demands of protesters following four months of widespread national protests demanding his resignation after years of economic decline and allegations of war crimes.
The final straw was the decision by thousands of protesters converging at the army headquarters on Thursday in the capital Khartoum. The army reportedly forced al-Bashir to step down.
His whereabouts were unknown at the time of going to press but a source claims he was locked up at state house where a transitional government is being established.
At least eight people were killed during the latest round of protests.
In total, more than 60 people have been killed during the government’s brutal crackdown against demonstrators. Human rights groups and opposition parties have since December last year led the protests.
Since assuming power, al-Bashir has been elected three times as President in polls that have been widely criticised for electoral rigging.
Al-Bashir spent much of his tenure in power prosecuting a brutal war against South Sudan which lasted 22 years, employing tactics such as indiscriminately dropping hundreds of barrel bombs on remote villages in the South.
Al-Bashir also implemented a scorched earth policy in areas of the South where he sought to clear the land of its inhabitants to make way for oil production.
The war with South Sudan came to an end in 2005 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the product of years of mediation. The Agreement paved the way for the independence of South Sudan in 2011. As a result of the violent conflict, and famine and disease brought on by the war, 22 million Sudanese died.
In March 2009, al-Bashir became the first sitting president to be indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), for allegedly directing a campaign of mass killing, rape and pillage against civilians in Darfur. The United Nations estimates that 300 000 civilians were killed since the war in Darfur began in 2003.
Bashir’s government responded to attacks by Darfuri rebel groups by carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Darfur’s non-Arabs, using the infamous horse-backed militias known as the Janjaweed.
The International Criminal Court accused al-Bashir of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Darfur. The court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir in 2009, but he has evaded numerous arrests during foreign visits.
In 2015, while al-Bashir was in South Africa for an African Union meeting, a civil society group went to court to seek a warrant for his arrest. Arguing that al-Bashir was in the country for an AU meeting which entitled him to diplomatic immunity, the administration of former President Jacob Zuma allowed him to depart the country.
The ICC later ruled that South Africa was legally obliged to have arrested al-Bashir when he was in South Africa for the AU meeting.
The arrest warrant has been a source of division between the ICC, the African Union, League of Arab States, Non-Aligned Movement, as well as the governments of China and Russia which accuse the ICC of only targeting leaders from developing countries.
Besides a reign riddled by war, Al-Bashir allegedly looted the impoverished nation of much of its wealth, with leaked US diplomatic cables suggesting US$9 billion of his siphoned off wealth has been stashed in overseas bank accounts.