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.
The demonstrations started in late December by university students who were angry with the government for Increasing 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.
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.
Ibn Auf also commended the youth of Sudan, whom he said “took to the streets in a very peaceful way.”
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 former military commander, al-Bashir came into power after leading a bloodless coup in 1989. He has been charged by the International Criminal Court in 2009 and 2010 with crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide in Darfur, where over 200,000 people were killed and at least 2.7 million others were displaced.
Defense Minister Ibn Auf has said that Bashir is in custody but did not give further details. He promised “free and fair elections” for Sudan at the end of the two-year transitional period.