December 26, 2018 update | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2kH
First posted December 20, 2018, 10:45 EST | https://wp.me/p45rOG-2kh
We now have a great many reports of the violence, arrests, and news censorship over the past several days. The latter includes the arrests/beatings of scores of journalists around the country and expulsion of non-Sudanese journalists. Political leaders have also been arrested and are is ongoing Internet blocking as well as blocking of social media platforms. Telephone service has also been reported as unreliable or unavailable.
These are all the actions a repressive regime might undertake to protect itself; but the use of murderous gunfire by security forces is particularly notable. There are many photographs of snipers strategically positioned in Khartoum; a trained sniper with a sniper rifle and scope can easily target a human head in close urban quarters. Unsurprisingly, we have seen on social media (when possible) a shocking number of bullet wounds to the head—typically fatal—of young men…disproportionately young men. This is not an accident and strongly suggests that “shoot to kill” orders have already been given, or at least discretion to use targeted lethal force. Radio Dabanga reports today:
Doctors from Khartoum who treated demonstrators confirmed that the security forces used excessive violence and were “shooting to kill.”
As of December 25, 2018, Amnesty International had received credible reports of 37 people killed at the hands of security forces. That number was likely low at the time and has now certainly been greatly surpassed. But with the savage crackdown on journalists as well as communication means, we can’t have anything like a definite mortality total. But many of those reported as “severely wounded” have likely died, and we simply don’t have information from a number of major locations of the protests.
The Larger Picture
We are no closer to seeing with any clarity what the political maneuvering is, given the palpable weakness of President al-Bashir. Senior members of National Congress Party are always difficult to read, but particularly so now. Voices of support for al-Bashir do not seem to be numerous. The Sudan Armed Forces seems to be hedging its bet, but may still decide to orchestrate a “palace coup”—or perhaps a transitional civilian government, in the best case (if least likely) scenario. It’s important to remember that many senior officers have been complicit in the Darfur geno