Sudan timeline January-March 2021: Holdout rebels in from the cold, Sudanese pound devalued, COVID-19 vaccine roll-out begins
The first quarter of 2021 ended with much optimism, as the Sudanese government and the SPLN-N El Hilu signed a Declaration of Principles in Juba, however it has been a turbulent three months economically. The adjustment of the exchange rate of the Sudanese Pound (SDG) to reflect the parallel market value has caused consumer prices to fluctuate, and done little to alleviate commodity and medicine shortages. However Sudan’s payment of World Bank arrears opened the door to $2 billion in grants for development, which offers hope for the future.
The beginning of 2021 has been marked by escalating tensions with Ethiopia. Several rounds of talks between Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia on the planned filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) have resulted in a deadlock. Ethiopian refugees continue arrive in Sudan fleeing internal strife, especially in the Tigray area, and Khartoum.
Chronic shortages of basic commodes, bread, and fuel have sparked public protests across Sudan, and violence – mainly from banditry – continues to take and destroy lives in Darfur.
The past months have seen the implementation of the withdrawal of the UN African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), and the head of the new UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) took up office in Khartoum, leaders of the rebel movements have been included in the new Council of Ministers.
COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, especially among the youth, which has disrupted education as states shut schools. The first batch of 828,000 doses of the AstraZeneca arrived at Khartoum airport. As the vaccine programme rolls out, 1.9 million doses are expected in the coming weeks and months, so that 17 million doses should be distributed in Sudan by the end of this year, according to UN agencies.
Timeline Sudan, January - March 2021
January: Bread and fuel protests continue in the country, while prices of basic commodities are soaring. Washington takes measures to return Sudan to the international banking system after the removal of the US sanctions. Violent attacks on displaced people take place in several parts of Darfur.
January 2: Army forces are redeployed at Sudan’s border with Ethiopia amidst escalating tensions. The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the driving force behind the revolution, demands the formation of the Legislative Council and the restructuring of the military and. Demonstrations take place in Central Darfur against the exit of the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) because of security concerns. PM Abdallah Hamdok prioritises peace in his Independence Day speech.
January 3: LGTBQ+ artist organisations in Sudan are often denied freedom of artistic expression.
January 4: New talks on the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) take place between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, under auspices of the African Union (AU). The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) protest the recently imposed 500 per cent increase in the electricity tariffs. A draft version of Sudan’s 2021 budget is leaked, showing plans to increase the military budget.
January 5: Attacks by South Sudanese gunmen leave five dead in White Nile state. In North Darfur, a village is attacked by a group of armed men. Sudan extends its travel ban on British, Dutch, and South African arrivals amid concerns over new COVID-19 variants.
January 6: Sudan includes all Juba Peace Agreement provisions in its 2021 budget. The US Treasury Secretary visits Khartoum to discuss economic affairs. Sudan obtains a €10 million grant from the EU to restructure its gum Arabic sector. Corruption in Sudan’s Religious Affairs Ministry during the Al Bashir era is exposed.
January 7: The US Treasury Secretary signs a memorandum to clear Sudan’s Word Bank arrears. Volker Perthes will become head of the new UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). Hundreds of people protest against ongoing insecurity in South Kordofan.
January 8: The Sudan 2021 budget is approved by the Council of Ministers. The Ministry of Finance and the US EXIM bank sign an agreement for a $1 billion loan. The director of the Centre for Educational Reform in Sudan resigns amidst disagreement over criticism by Muslim clerics over the new school curricula. Darfur rebel leader Minni Minawi highlights importance of equal footing with Sudan military.
January 9: Sudan expresses ‘deep concern’ over Ethiopia’s plan to fill its Renaissance Dam. A Sudanese delegation visits Eritrea to discuss regional security. The gold production in the country reached 36.6 tons in 2020, 9.6 tons more than in the previous year. Water prices soar amid shortages in North Kordofan. Darfur rebel leader Abdelwahid El Nur denies he will enter peace talks with the Sudanese government.
January 11: A new Sudanese government is to be announced. The negotiations on the new Ethiopian mega-dam reach a deadlock. In Omdurman, the director of a mortuary is charged over fraud relating to missing protestors after the June 3 massacre in 2019. The FFC warn that Sudan’s 2021 budget will lead to economic collapse.
January 12: COVID-19 continues to spread across Sudan. Journalists say that the refusal of SUNA to allow a press conference of the SPA is ‘reminiscent of the old regime’. Women in Darfur protest against rape, violence, and sexual harassment.
January 14: Inflation rates continue to rise amidst rumours of a new Sudanese currency. Tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia escalate further. A doctor warns about the lack of resources as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. A blogger and women’s rights defender may face a year in prison over a Facebook video.
January 15: A no-fly zone over the Sudanese-Ethiopian border is announced after an Ethiopian military warplane entered Sudanese airspace. Restrictions on imports from the USA have officially been lifted. The SPA protests against RSF detention centres continue. Sudan Revolutionary Front rebels tour the country to promote the Juba Peace Agreement.
January 16: Purchasing power continues to weaken in Sudan.
January 17: In Darfur, various violent incidents take place and protesters are imprisoned. The transitional government is accused of double standards.
January 18: More than 80 people are killed in attacks on El Geneina, capital of West Darfur. In South Kordofan, a curfew is installed to curb the rampant insecurity in the state capital. In Khartoum, police break up a protest against detention centres of the RSF. The Umma Party accuses the FFC of being ‘far from neutral’ on new government formations.
January 20: At least 159 people have been killed in the attacks on El Geneina. In South Darfur, the death toll of an attack by Rizeigat gunmen reaches 56. More than 23,000 COVID-19 cases have been recorded since start of the pandemic in March last year. The Sovereignty Council approves the 2021 budget. Sudanese women’s rights defender Waad Bahjat appears in court.
January 21: According to Sudan’s Finance Minister, the government plans a raft of reforms to boost Sudan’s ailing economy. More than 90,000 people have fled their homes following the attacks on El Geneina. The South Darfur governor instructs additional powers to the military after the recent tribal fighting. Student protests against increased bread prices enter their third day.
January 22: Detention of civilians is now prohibited, except by police and prosecution, after protests against illegal RSF detentions. El Geneina witnesses a cautious calm after the violent attacks. Protests take place in South Kordofan as a civilian is killed.
January 23: A joint security force begins its tasks in El Geneina following the attacks on the West Darfur capital.
January 24: Opposition parties blame the Sudanese military for the recurring violence across the country, while the rampant insecurity in North Darfur and South Kordofan continues. Sudan’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy is still unclear.
January 25: At least six die in an attack on an East Jebel Marra village, South Darfur. In Khartoum, bread, and fuel demos block roads. PM Hamdok announces the formation of a new Sudanese Human Rights Commission and meets with the FFC to discuss government formations.
January 26: The death toll of the attacks on El Geneina is now at least 163 as the situation remains unstable. New fuel prices are set to combat shortages as bread and fuel protests continue. PM Hamdok chairs the UN Replenishment Conference.
January 28: South Sudanese officers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) arrive in Khartoum for the implementation of the military parts of the Juba Peace Agreement. Journalists are allowed to travel into Darfur again after criticism. Police and army forces clash in Wad Madani, capital of El Gezira during bread and fuel protests.
January 29: The formation of the new government is delayed. Arab tribesmen set up a sit-in in El Geneina. A Resistance Committee member is wounded in a clash with supporters of the former regime in River Nile state.
January 31: An RSF contingent arrives in South Darfur as “Peace Shield Forces” to restore stability after recent tribal conflicts. Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’, Deputy Chairman of the Sovereignty Council visits Qatar. The Friends of Sudan hold a conference to promote investment in Sudan.
February: The head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) takes up office in Khartoum, rebel leaders are included in the new Council of Ministers. The official rate of the Sudanese Pound is adjusted to the parallel market prices.
February 1: The Sudan Liberation Movement under the leadership of Abdelwahid El Nur (SLM- AW), reportedly repelled an attack by gunmen in North Darfur
February 2: The North Darfur Security Committee will deploy the Peace Shield Forces, set up by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) government militia, to deal with the lack of security in the state. The UN Human Rights Council calls on the Sudanese government to protect the people in Darfur.
February 3: The head of the new UN mission, UNITAMS, and UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan, Volker Perthes, arrives in Khartoum to take up office. In Tawila locality, North Darfur, groups of gunmen attacked 11 villages and stole 15,000 head of cattle in the past 10 days.
February 4: Members of the Joint Military Forces in South Kordofan seize large quantities of weapons and explosives in the state capital of Kadugli.
February 5: Three rebel leaders join the Sovereignty Council in Khartoum. Women groups press the government to commit to the agreed 40 per cent participation of women at all governmental levels. Protests against the scarcity of bread and transport continue in El Gedaref, Nyala, and Khartoum.
February 6: The June 3 Missing Persons Committee investigates bodies in mortuary in Wad Madani, capital of El Gezira.
February 8: Launch of UN-EU Counter-Terrorism Partnership for Sudan. Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs and EU Special Representative Pekka Haavisto arrives in Sudan for a two-day official visit. The sit-in of Arab tribesmen in the West Darfur capital El Geneina was lifted yesterday, after the Sovereignty Council met their demands.
February 9: Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok announces the 25 members of the new Council of Ministers, among them leaders of the rebel groups who signed the Juba Peace Agreement. The Darfur Bar Association (DBA) criticises the Sudanese government for failing to collect weapons in Darfur despite multiple attempts.
February 12: Sudan’s Transitional Partners Council (TPC) calls for expediting the appointment of new governors to the country’s 18 states and the establishment of the Legislative Council. The Empowerment Elimination, Anti-Corruption, and Funds Recovery Committee has gathered sufficient information about the activities of members of the former Sudanese regime under Omar Al Bashir to begin criminal procedures.
February 14: UN Security Council requests review of situation in Darfur. Eight Sudanese states declare a State of Emergency following violent protests against the inflation and the scarcity of basic commodities.
February 15: Former leaders of the ousted President Omar Al Bashir’s regime have been arrested for inciting protesters. The Sudanese government condemns “the aggression committed by Ethiopia on Sudanese territory”. Fears of a cholera outbreak in West Darfur.
February 16: The Sudanese government signs a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Criminal Court in The Hague concerning the trial of former Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb.
February 17: Economist Sidgi Kaballo expects the Dollar exchange rate on the parallel market to rise further unless the government takes urgent measures. Food insecurity will increase the coming months.
February 23: Sudanese economists say that ‘currency unification’ may increase stability but also poverty. The country witnesses new protests against the soaring prices and strikes for higher salaries.
February 24: The Sudanese government approves draft laws to join the 2006 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and the 1984 Convention against Torture and Cruel Punishment.
February 26: Sudan’s Attorney General confirms that Darfur war criminals will not escape trial.
February 28: According to a report of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre the current violence in Darfur caused the highest number of displaced in six years.
March: COVID-19 numbers rise again, Sudan receives 800K AstraZeneca vaccine doses. Devaluation of Sudan Pound last month leads to sharp price raises. People in Darfur protest the growing violence in the region.
March 1: The Sudanese government’s priorities for 2021 are the economy, peace, security, foreign relations, and the democratic transition. The authorities will control the gold exports. The European Union grants €70 million more for Sudan’s Family Support Programme. Most of the new COVID-19 cases are recorded in Khartoum and El Gezira.
March 2: Port Sudan hosts both US and Russian warships.
March 3: Devaluation of Sudanese Pound leads to soaring domestic airfares, customs duties. The Central Bank of Sudan issues protocols for accepting and issuing bank and credit cards. It also set daily and weekly withdrawal limits. Farmers of the El Gezira Agricultural Scheme demand improved irrigation.
March 4: North, West, and South Darfur witness a surge in tribal violence. Sudan receives 800k+ AstraZeneca vaccine doses. The Sudanese Human Rights and Development Organisation (HUDO) reports the arbitrary detention of people in Blue Nile state.
March 5: Military support arrives in North Darfur following attacks by gunmen. A young Khartoum poet is summoned before the Sudanese Press and Publications Prosecution regarding a poem on the violent dispersal of protestors at the Khartoum sit-in on June 3, 2019.
March 7: According to the undersecretary of the Oil Ministry, the petrol industry experienced significant damage and losses in 2020 due to security threats.
March 8: Rebel leaders Malik Agar, El Hadi Idris, and El Taher Hajar were sworn in as members of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council.
March 9: Sudan’s COVID-19 response committee appeals to the public to observe precautions as infections spike. Engineers work to mitigate effect on Nile system when Ethiopia fills its Renaissance dam. Tribal leaders are arrested over North Darfur violence.
March 10: People in South Darfur protest the presence of RSF paramilitaries in the region.
March 10: The Ministry of Health in Khartoum state launches a COVID-19 vaccination programme. The head of UNITAMS, Volker Perthes, briefs the UN Security Council on Sudan’s ‘staggering challenges‘, and urges the international community to step up assistance to Sudan. A member of the Sovereignty Council warns of ‘proliferation of arms, gunmen in Darfur’.
March 13: The visit of PM Hamdok and his delegation to Saudi Arabia and Egypt was “successful”.
March 15: Dozens of armed men attack displaced people in Fata Borno, North Darfur.
March 16: Abdelwahid El Nur, the leader of the holdout Sudan Liberation Movement arrives in Juba for peace talks. A delegation from the Public Prosecution arrives in El Geneina, to investigate the bloody attacks of January.
March 18: Sudanese women groups express support for the position of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) headed by Abdelaziz El Hilu, which advocates secularism. Khartoum expresses its concerns about the deteriorating security situation in North Darfur. The Defence Industries System, one of Sudan’s biggest military firms, plans to reorganise its holdings.
March 19: The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is “working with the police to protect women and girls“ in Darfur. Severe water shortages continue in North Kordofan and Blue Nile state. Face masks become mandatory in Sudanese workplaces.
March 22: The SAF says it is ‘ready to integrate former rebel combatants‘.
March 25: The World Bank and the Sudanese government sign an agreement for an additional $420 million for Sudan’s Samarat Family Support Programme. Families of people killed during the revolution urge the Sudanese government to ratify the Rome Statute.
March 26: A call for Sudan’s Public Order Law to be reinstated sparks public outcry.
March 29: Pharmacists condemn the ‘catastrophic’ medicine situation in Sudan.
March 30: Sovereignty Council member laments ‘alarming’ COVID-19 surge among the country’s youth.
March 31: According to UNHCR, $574 million is needed to help refugees in Sudan.
Sudan uprising: Timeline of tumultuous change (August 2019)
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