For this week’s Abroad Life, we tell the story of the Sudan conflict through a timeline of events — its origins, how it affects Nigerians in the diaspora, and what actions have been taken by the government to help. 

Over the last few weeks, Sudan has been nothing but chaos. And Nigerians are caught in the thick of the heat.

Clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have brewed for months, resulting in the current conflict.

Sudanese army soldiers, loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, sit atop a tank in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan on April 20, 2023. [AFP]

But how did it begin? How does this affect Nigerians? What is the Nigerian government doing about its citizens?

Let us tell the story through a timeline of events.

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The Origin

December 2018: Citizens protest in Atbara city against rising food prices, widespread corruption and unemployment as Sudan faces a worsening economic crisis.

Sudan Protest of 2018 [TRT World]

Protests quickly spread to other parts of the country, finally reaching the capital Khartoum. Security responded with tear gas and gunfire, and protesters demanded that the country’s 26-year ruler, Omar al-Bashir step down.

April 2019: The people of Khartoum do not quit. They stage a sit-in at the army headquarters in Khartoum. This led to the army ousting and detaining Bashir, ending his 30-year grip on power. 

However, the army quickly gains control, suspending the constitution and imposing a three-month state of emergency.

Sudan protests at the Army headquarters in Khartoum [BBC]

A transitional military government is formed, but protests continue with calls for civilian power. But attempts to break the impasse between the country’s military and protesters collapse. 

A period of peace?

August 2019: Following mediation between the African Union and Ethiopia, civilian leaders and the navy agree to share political power for a three-year transition period. Elections will hold in 2023. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok leads a new council of ministers.

Ahmed al-Rabie, from the Alliance for Freedom and Change (R) and Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, from the military council, after the signing of the power-sharing, August 17, 2019. [EBRAHIM HAMID / AFP]

On August 17, a “constitutional declaration” was signed, which brings months of upheaval to an end. But this came with a clause. It said that the first 21 months of the transitional length would be led by means of the navy and then observed with the aid of civilian rule. The deal faces criticism from protesters who worry the navy will not keep its word.

December 2019: On December 14, Bashir, the country’s overthrown ruler, is convicted of corruption and sentenced to two years in a correctional centre.

Chaos in the COVID-19 Pandemic

March-July 2020: Hamdok, Sudan’s transitional high minister, survives an assassination strike on March 9.

Inflation in Sudan is greater than one hundred per cent. The Covid-19 pandemic results in monetary wahala for the country. The authorities see the need to announce a foreign exchange devaluation.

Protests persisted in June, with calls for justice for the individuals killed under Bashir’s rule.

On July 21, Bashir faces trial on the charges of the 1989 coup that introduced him to power.

Sudan’s deposed ruler Omar al-Bashir faces trial over corruption. [AMT]

Treaties and negotiations

October 2020: Sudan’s authorities and some rebellion organisations from the restive Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan provinces sign an important peace deal that could cease many years of combat. However, two of the biggest riot organisations do not sign the treaty.

Sudan’s Sovereign Council Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (L), South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (C), and Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok lift copies of a signed peace agreement with Sudan’s five key rebel groups in Juba, South Sudan, August 31, 2020. [Reuters]

December 2020-January 2021: Sudan seeks to normalise ties with Israel. In return, they’d be eliminated from the US terrorism list, get $1 billion from the World Bank to write off the country’s debts, and motivate overseas investment.

This works for Sudan, as the US ended Sudan’s designation as a country sponsor of terrorism on December 14. On January 6, the transitional authorities signed the Abraham Accords, which makes them a member of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco due to them officially recognising Israel.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (L) and Sudanese Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari signed the Abraham Accords in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on January 6, 2021.[Facebook]

The cracks begin to unfold

February 2021: Seven ministers from former rebellion groups form a coalition, but developing fractures with the fragile civilian alliance shortly emerge.

September-October 2021: A coup on September 21 is unsuccessful through navy figures under Bashir’s influence.

In October, a faction of the civilian protesters call for the army to take power and rule the country. Other civilian factions go on the streets to demonstrate their need for a civilian government.

On October 25, Sudanese armed forces arrested five ministers from the transitional cabinet, which includes Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

The coup was led with the aid of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. He was assisted by the deputy head of Sudan’s ruling council and chief of the RSF, General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo. He is also known as Hemeti.

Protesters march in Khartoum after Sudan’s military launches coup [The Guardian]

November 2021:

Mass protests towards the coup result in Hamdok being reinstated as prime minister.

Fighting erupts 

January 2022: Hamdok, unable to cope with the pressures of the coup, resigns from office.

Hamdok speaks at a press conference for Sudan’s Council of Ministers [AFP]

June 2022: The UN World Food Programme says more than a third of Sudan’s population faces food insecurity and blames this on the country’s ongoing political, economic and climate shocks

Anti-coup protesters take cover as riot police try to disperse them with water cannons during a demonstration against military rule in the centre of Sudan’s capital Khartoum on June 30, 2022 (AFP)

October 2022: Huge crowds take to the streets of Sudan in anti-military demonstrations marking the first anniversary of the coup.

December 2022: An agreement is signed by civilian groups sidelined by the military in the 2021 coup. A new two-year political transitional period starts.

April 2023: A power struggle between interim head of state, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo (also known as Hemedti) breaks into the open.

Hemedti and Burhan [Vanguard Newspapers]

In a statement, Sudan’s military warns of the mobilisation of troops by the RSF in the capital Khartoum and other cities without its approval. They also warned of possible armed confrontations.

April 15: Khartoum becomes a war zone, with clashes from the SAF and RSF near the airport and army headquarters. The death count of Sudanese is over 400, with hundreds of people injured.

Heavy smoke bellows above buildings in the vicinity of Khartoum’s airport on April 15, 2023, amid clashes in the Sudanese capital  [CNN/AFP/Getty Images]

The Nigerian student situation

April 24, 2023: Nearly 3,000 Nigerian nationals, mostly students, are evacuated from Sudan. According to Onimode Bandele, special duties director for Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), this was. This includes families of embassy staff.

Onimode Bandele [The Witness Newspaper]

The government response 

April 24, 2023: Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, announces that Air Peace is willing to evacuate Nigerian students free of charge 

April 26, 2023: Nigeria in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) deploys 40 buses to Sudan for Nigerian students to convey them to Egypt. 13 buses left Sudan for the Aswan border in Egypt from two universities in Khartoum.

Nigerian students waiting for evacuation buses to Egypt [The Cable]

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Godffrey Onyeama, says no Nigerian died. He also said that $1.2 million would be used for Nigerian evacuation.

April 27, 2023: NIDCOM chairman, Abike Dabiri, announces that university admission awaits Nigerian students from Sudan.

A portrait of Abike Dabiri [Twitter]

One of the Nigerian students reaches out to the BBC to say that some drivers were not paid. They refused to drive any further, thus trapping passengers in the desert.

Abike later reassures Nigerians in a follow-up tweet that she has spoken to NEMA director-general, and the matter has been resolved.

However, one of the students blasts Dabiri on Twitter to dispute her claim. According to @imranjameel2002, students had to give their passports to the drivers until payment.

April 28, 2023: The first set of students is expected to arrive in Nigeria, according to Abike Dabiri.



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