Sudan's Awad Ibn Auf: veteran of Bashir era who held power for a day

Activists and commentators say former military man was cut from the same cloth as the leader he replaced

epa07501427 Awad Ibn Auf, the Sudanese Defense Minister speaking in Khartoum, Sudan, 27 February 2019, issued 12 April 2019. Reports state that Awad Ibn Auf, the Sudanese Defense Minister Vice President and Chief of Sudan’s new ruling Council since 11 April 2019  announced that Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has been ousted and arrested by the military after nearly 30 years in power and that the future would be decided by the protesters who took to the streets.  EPA/STR
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Seconds after Vice President Awad Ibn Auf announced that he would head Sudan’s military transitional government, protesters erupted in anger. The statement was broadcast over state radio on Thursday, hours after Omar Al Bashir reportedly "stepped down" after months of protests. On Friday, the military announced that Mr Ibn Auf had been replaced.

Activists and commentators say Mr Ibn Auf, known mainly for his role in the brutal repression of the insurgency in the western Darfur region, is cut from the same cloth as the man he replaced.

Born in 1954 in Gerri, a town 70 kilometres north of Khartoum, in a river Nile state that all of Sudan’s modern leaders have come from, Mr Ibn Auf enrolled in military college at the age of 20 and later served in an artillery unit. He received additional military training in Egypt before returning to Sudan and marrying Mr Al Bashir’s sister, who was his fourth wife.

Mohammed AbdulHamid, a veteran Sudanese journalist and chairman of Sudan of Tomorrow, a media station for the Sudan Professionals Association which is leading the protests, told The National that Mr Ibn Auf is a committed Islamist who benefited from Mr Al Bashir's National Congress Party (NCP).

He notes that Mr Ibn Auf did not become notorious until he served as director of the Military Intelligence Agency. Rather than deploy the army to crush the armed uprising in Darfur, Mr Ibn Awaf recruited Arab Darfuris into state-financed militias known 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,” Mr AbdulHamid said. “Auf recruited local Arabs that were jeopardised by the rebels in Darfur and he began financing and training them.”

On Friday, Mr Ibn Auf's transitional council said they would not hand over Mr Al Bashir to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, where he is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Sudanese activists and observers were not surprised, noting that Mr Ibn Auf himself was sanctioned by the United States in 2007 for his role in the genocide and risks a warrant for his arrest as well.

Mr Ibn Auf's military career enabled him to benefit lucratively from the state budget's generous allocations for defence, a policy that protesters credit for squandering the country’s wealth. Maisoun Badawi, a former private-sector development specialist who worked in Sudan for a multinational company, said that more than 70 per cent 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.

By 2010, Mr Ibn Auf had retired from the military and delved into diplomacy and politics. He served as the head of a security committee that was charged with de-escalating 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 Ibn Auf was appointed Vice President by Mr Al Bashir, who was desperately searching for a figure to help him survive weeks of mass protests.

Now the popular uprising that ousted Mr Al Bashir has also forced Mr Ibn Auf to stand aside.

“Ibn Auf is a curse," said Raphael, a protester in Khartoum. "He’s the same as Bashir’s regime."