Despite mass protests against austerity measures in Sudan in recent weeks – leaving about 210 protesters dead and over 2000 arrested and detained –the international community, including the United States, has been far too silent. Despite a few condemnations, the relations of most countries with Sudan have continued without interference. Graphic images of injured and dead protesters have spread widely through social media, visually portraying the story of an incipient Sudanese revolution and the government’s brutal crackdown in response. The hopes of opponents to the regime for international solidarity and support have so far been disappointed. In fact many seem to believe the protests are over, despite the fact that hundreds went out on the street today.
This week, the Interior Minister of Sudan, Ibrahim Mohamed Hamed, has been in New York to discuss humanitarian aid access for vaccinations for children between 0-5 years old. The mere fact that the Sudanese government holds these types of services hostage to politics is appalling. While in New York, he also participated participated in an event in New York hosted by the International Peace Institute to discuss “how to strengthen the resilience of communities in Sudan and deliver a more efficient and sustainable humanitarian response.” While is a worthy idea in principle, it sends the wrong message to a country where large numbers of Sudanese are mourning the deaths of 210 people at the hands of Sudanese police led by Mr. Hamed and millions more in Darfur, Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. This week's visit provides him with a platform to continue to spread falsehoods that have been disseminated by the government on the protests, the dire conditions in the Nuba Mountains, and the rising violence in Darfur.
He gave a preview of the government’s line last week in a press conference in Khartoum when he was asked about the excessive force used against the protesters. According to him, “The police have it under control…. They have been around for 150 years and they work with organization and strategy that we trust.” According to him, the protesters are “saboteurs” who were trying to burn gas stations and government property, forcing the police to take action to control the situation. Meanwhile,videos of police and military shooting at peacefully demonstrating protesters have circulated the internet acting as a testament for how the police really have handled the situation. When asked about the graphic images of obviously Sudanese protesters slain by the police, he cynically answered that they were fabricated images taken from the Egyptian revolution.
It is the responsibility of the international community and governments with influence to make clear that the actions of the Sudanese government are not acceptable. One way not to do that is to invite senior officials with bloody hands to events at which they can showcase their positive spin, while brushing an inconvenient reality under the rug.