A Sea of Steel Blue: Interpreting the Sudan Crisis and its ‘Insta-Proliferation’

Hadi Ali (Staff Writer) Online

September 5th, 2019

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Citizens in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum saw initial strides towards governmental change on April 6th, 2019, following protests in front of military headquarters. Protesters were demonstrating against former President Omar al-Bashir, who had left the nation in economic collapse following his 30-year authoritarian rule. This effort appeared to be a success for demonstrators, as military forces accomplished a successful coup, acquiring power at the end of April. However, overthrowing al-Bashir proved far from the end of the Sudanese conflict, as tensions surrounding this new democratic transition came to a boil between civilians and the leading military council.

Rejecting the military council’s proposal of a 3-year transition to democracy, protestors stated fears of a return to a similar regime in the hands of the military council. Alternatives to a perceived botched hold on power included an immediate transfer of power to a civil transitional authority. This initiative was met with a lack of understanding by the military council, who responded to protests with merciless violence. The has led to a call for general civil disobedience, which continues to be met with countless civilian casualties, assaults, and rapes.

The global response to the bloodshed in Khartoum stands as an unprecedented case in African conflicts. Following an initial lack of coverage from mass media outlets, the Sudan crisis has followed an unorthodox path to popularity, with the help of the social media platform, Instagram. Users have created what can be coined as an ‘Insta-proliferation’ of awareness across the platform, by sharing updates on the situation and changing personal display pictures to a steel blue colour. The sea of steel blue initially began in honour of Mohamed Hashim Mattar, a 26-year-old man killed during protests. The display of colour has now become a symbol of solidarity for protesters and supporters alike.

The development over social media has proven to be a successful plea for conflict recognition, as mass media outlets such as CNN, BBC, and The Washington Post have picked up Sudan’s story. Several notable celebrities such as George Clooney and Demi Lovato have also engaged with the conflict by speaking out and adopting the steel blue display pictures on personal accounts.

Despite its success, the effort to spread awareness over social media has faced issues. Reports of fake accounts claiming to provide financial support have emerged. Currently, those wishing to assist through donations should use organizations present in Sudan, such as Save the Children, UNICEF, and the International Rescue Committee. Anyone looking to share or support online is urged to fact-check and support real activists engaged in the conflict. 

Recently, new information surfaced on the progression of the conflict. Sudan’s top general stated that a power-sharing deal had been reached with protestors. This new deal will see a dissolution of the military council currently possessing power of the nation. Official power will be transferred and held by a joint-sovereign council with pro-democratic intents of organizing free and fair elections. The joint-sovereign council will be evenly split between 5 military personnel and 5 representatives of the protesting movement.

It is reported that foreign influence from the United States and Western allies were involved in restoring peace and order within the nation. While the West showed support for a civil transition, it is rumoured that Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt favoured the side of the military council in fear of influences on their citizens.

In following the ongoing conflict, continued domestic and international pressure upon the transitional authority will be essential in ensuring a fresh and just chapter of democratic freedom for Sudan. That being said, it is essential for supporters of the cause to stay attentive and helpful in voicing their democratic rights. Sudan is at the brink of achieving political liberty; a glorious feat which should not be placed on the backburner of our minds until the transition is complete and remains true to its original conditions.