Seconds after Vice President Awad Ibn Awaf announced that he would head Sudan’s military transitional government, protestors erupted in anger.
The statement was broadcasted over state-radio on Thursday, hours after Omar Al Bashir reportedly ‘stepped down’ due to months of protests.
But rather than celebrate, activists and commentators warned that Mr. Awaf is cut from the same cloth as the man he replaced.
Mr. Awaf was born in 1954 in Gerri – a town located 70KM north from Khartoum – in a river Nile state where all of Sudan’s modern leaders come from. By the age of 20, he enrolled in military college and later served in the artillery unit. He then received additional military training in Egypt, before returning to Sudan and marrying Mr. Bashir’s sister, who was his fourth wife.
Mohammed AbdulHamid, a veteran Sudanese journalist and the chairman of Sudan of Tomorrow, a media station for the Professional Associations which is leading the protests, told The National that Mr. Awaf is a committed Islamist that benefited from Mr. Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP).
Yet he notes that Mr. Awaf didn’t become notorious until he served as the director of the Military Intelligence Agency. Rather than deploy the army to crush an armed uprising, Mr. Awaf recruited Arab Darfuris into state-financed militias knows as the Janjaweed.
The Janjaweed went on to kill more than 350,000 civilians and burn dozens of villages to the ground.
“He was the head of Military Intelligence when the genocide happened,” AbdulHamid told The National. “Awaf recruited local Arabs that were jeopardized by the rebels in Darfur and he began financing and training them.”
On Friday, Ibn Awaf announced that he would not hand over Mr. Bashir to the Hague, where is wanted for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Sudanese activists and observers weren’t surprised, noting that Mr. Awaf was sanctioned by the United States in 2007 for his role in the genocide and risks a warrant for his arrest too.
Mr. Awaf military career enabled him to benefit lucratively from the state budget, a policy that protestors credit for squandering the country’s wealth. Maisoun Badawi, a former private sector development specialist that worked in Sudan for a multi-national company, said that more than 70 percent of the state budget was allocated to security services from 2005-2010.
“At the time, the NCP didn’t want to compromise on the budget that was going straight to the army and security services,” she told The National over the phone.
By 2010, Mr. Awaf retired from the military and delved into diplomacy and politics. He served as the head of a Security Committee that was charged with deescalating tensions between Sudan and Eritrea. The following year, in 2011, he was appointed as consul at the Sudanese embassy in Cairo.
Around the same time, Sudanese political exiles in Egypt were reportedly being hunted by spies from Sudan’s National Intelligence Security Service (NISS).
Fast forward to February 23 of this year, and Mr. Awaf was appointed Vice President by Mr. Bashir, who was desperately searching for a figure to help him survive the mass protests.
Now the popular uprising that ousted Mr. Bashir also threatens his demise.
“The army is setting up huge stereos around us. I think they are going to tell us to go home,” said Raphael, a protestor who declined to give his last name for fear of reprisal.
“There is no way I’m going home. Ibn Awaf is a curse. He’s the same as Bashir’s regime. Source:theNation