After months of protest and unrest, the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, was ousted from his position of power after a 30-year reign, and is now facing charges.
Sudan’s defense minister, Lt. Gen. Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf announced on Thursday that al-Bashir, 75, was taken into custody on charges of genocide, The New York Times reported. He noted simply that the former ruler is in “a safe place.” Al-Bashir is the longest-serving president since the country gained its independence in 1956 and is accused of playing “an essential role” in atrocities in Darfur by overseeing forces that killed, raped and terrorized hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Al-Bashir is credited with brokering the end of the Second Sudanese Civil War in 2005, which ultimately led to an entire region of the country seceding to become the nation of South Sudan in 2011. However, he also oversaw the war in Darfur that has killed as many as 300,000 people according to United Nations estimates.
Many natives have lived their entire lives under al-Bashir’s rule, which he assumed in a military coup in 1989 while he was a brigadier in the Sudanese army. “He has been such a burden for us,” said one 25-year-old protester. “We can’t wait to build the new Sudan with freedom, justice and peace.”
Following the announcement of al-Bashir’s ouster, the military also announced a government takeover, which has many citizens feeling uneasy.
“What has been just stated is for us a coup, and it is not acceptable,” said Sara Abdelgalil, a spokeswoman for the Sudanese Professionals Association, which has been organizing the protests. “They are recycling the faces, and this will return us to where we have been.”
The United States has previously accused Auf, a former diplomat, of also playing a significant role in the violence and atrocities committed in Darfur.
“It’s basically Bashir’s henchmen taking over,” Alex de Waal, a Sudan expert at Tufts University told The Times. “It stops a civil war among Sudan’s rivalrous military oligarchs, but it won’t satisfy the demands for democracy.”
Though the military has not released information about how they plan to reshape the government over the next two years, several officials have held meetings on the topic. However, protesters are refusing to end their struggle with the removal of al-Bashir.
“We insist on a civil government,” Abdelgalil added, “and we don’t support any coup.”
She went on to assure that demonstrations would continue “until there is a complete step down of the whole regime.”