NAIROBI — Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has ruled the country for nearly 30 years and is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, has stepped down in response to massive nationwide protests that started four months ago.
Defense Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf addressed the nation Thursday afternoon, announcing that al-Bashir had been arrested “in a safe place.” He called for a state of emergency for three months and a transitional period of two years, as well as a national ceasefire, and the immediate release of all political prisoners.
He spoke about the growing inequality that had gripped the country, and noted that “despite all the suffering, despite all the lies, despite all the false promises, the Sudanese were patient, the Sudanese were tolerant, the Sudanese were generous.”
Ibn Auf also commended the youth of Sudan, whom he said “took to the streets in a very peaceful way.”
The demonstrations started in late December by university students who were angry with the government for tripling the cost of bread. When the ATMs ran out of cash shortly after, the Sudanese Professionals Association, a national union group, redirected the protests to call for the end of al-Bashir’s reign. The movement has since spread to nearly every state in Sudan, making it the biggest ever resistance effort against the government since al-Bashir became president.
As the number of protesters multiplied, state-led security forces cracked down on the civilians, firing tear gas during rallies, beating demonstrators in the streets, arresting them indiscriminately, and sometimes killing them. More than 65 people have died since the protests began, a representative of the Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate told BuzzFeed News.
A former military commander, al-Bashir came into power after leading a bloodless coup in 1989. The International Criminal Court charged the 75-year-old in 2009 and 2010 with crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide in Darfur, where between 200,000 and 300,000 people were killed and at least 2.7 million others were displaced. Despite the international travel ban stemming from his arrest warrant, al-Bashir has made diplomatic trips to South Africa, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
Defense Minister Ibn Auf has said that Bashir is in custody but did not give further details.
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