Sudan sit-in shows how ordinary people can run society and win real change
Sudan’s ruling class is desperately trying to reassert control as protests continue demanding fundamental change.
And these protests are showing new forms of defiance, resistance and cooperation. A witness to the sit-in near the army headquarters writes, “As you walk into the area of the capital Khartoum now completely controlled by the young ‘revolutionaries’ down town, you see the difference.
“Street outside: full of rubbish with plastic bags strewn across the roads. Street inside: clean of rubbish – bags to put your garbage placed strategically around and young men with long hair and skinny jeans roaming around, picking up trash and encouraging others to help.
“People arranging prayer areas and ensuring privacy to do so.
“Volunteers organising checkpoints every few metres to ensure no one gets through with weapons. Women search women and men search men.
“A pharmacy run by young volunteer pharmacists to dispense medication to those who need it. Medicine provided by companies and individuals for free.
“Two blood donation trucks to ensure those injured in the protests obtain the blood they need.
“People collecting cash contributions and bags of money left at the side of the road for anyone to take if they need money to get home.
“Shifts organised— the ‘day revolutionaries’ go home at night after the ‘night revolutionaries’ arrive to take over.
“Traditional Sudanese hospitality not forgotten – anyone visiting MUST drink tea or water.
“No cars allowed in unless you’re bringing donations. No exceptions, even for foreign diplomats. The U.S. Charge D’Affaires was stopped outside when he came to visit.
“Street children being fed and looked after, included in this new society.
“Security? Taken care of. Makeshift blockades of bricks and borrowed razor wire block the roads to stop any attacks at night after a few failed but violent attempts to forcibly disperse the sit-in.
“Missing the football? Supporters sent a huge screen to watch the last big Barcelona match.
“Children are given flags and biscuits, carried on shoulders so they can see above the throngs of people. Birthday parties, weddings – you name it, it’s happening right there in the street.
“Christian Sudanese Coptics holding fabric shades over the heads of their Muslim brothers while they pray under the hot sun.
“Without any ‘leaders’ whatsoever, these young Sudanese managed to effectively run this sit-in, this mini ‘state’ within the capital, and do so politely, without infighting, ego or provocation.
“Instead humour, cooperation, unity and solidarity are the order of the day.”
On the April 11 2019, dictator Omar al-Bashir was removed by the army following months of mass protests and some strikes.
Army leaders judged that Bashir, who had ruled for 30 years, could not be saved. But celebrations on the streets at his fall were short-lived as the new “interim military council”, headed by vice-president Awad Ibn Auf, announced it would rule the country for two years. It also announced a three-month state of emergency.
Protesters stayed on the streets demanding much more thoroughgoing change and an immediate move to civilian democratic rule. They rightly pointed to “Bashir-ism without Bashir” and a “stolen revolution”.
Ibn Auf was a particularly hated figure because he had been groomed by Bashir as his successor.
The spectre of growing protests targeting all those associated with the former regime then forced further changes.
After just two days in charge, Ibn Auf resigned. He was replaced by Lt-Gen Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan who announced the end of a curfew—which had been widely defied anyway—and that he would “uproot the regime”.
But that would mean getting rid of himself. He is thoroughly associated with Bashir’s inner circle.
And later on Saturday the army named Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo as the deputy head of the Transitional Military Council.
Known by the nickname “Hemeti”, the general commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Force, which grew out of the government-backed Janjaweed militia.
The Janjaweed carried out multiple atrocities in Sudan’s western region of Darfur in the early 2000s.
Whatever the manoeuvres at the top, the key question is whether the protests and strikes continue and develop. The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which has been leading protests to demand a civilian government, called for more demonstrations on Saturday.
“Today, we continue the march to finish the victory for our victorious revolution,” the SPA said in a statement.
“We assert that our revolution is continuing and will not retreat or deviate from its path until we achieve our people’s legitimate demands of handing over power to a civilian government.”
The SPA has put forward specific and important demands. As well as the central call for civilian rule, it wants all those who have “committed crimes against the Sudanese people to be brought to fair trials, dissolution of the regime’s militias, dissolution of all organs and institutions of the regime and the immediate arrest and custody of all leaders involved in the killings and financial corruption, and immediate release of all political and military detainees.”
Winning these will take a revolution against the fakers who have placed themselves in power. It will require not talks or compromises but all-out struggle including mass strikes.
The SPA added, “We reaffirm once again that we will not retreat from the demands of the revolution. Our rallies in the national capital are in place and will not be disbanded and our civil disobedience continues until full arrival of our demands.”
Sudan has already delivered hope to others fighting repressive regimes. It can be part of a north African wave of resistance and change alongside the mass protests in Algeria.
Unlike in the Arab Spring of 2011 these movements must drive through confrontation with all elements of the ruling class and their hangers-on.