The revolt against president Omar al-Bashir in Sudan has given hope to Sudanese activists in Britain and around the world.
The uprising began in December and was sparked by anger over rising prices and shortages. But it has become a much bigger struggle demanding deeper changes in society.
Haliem is a Sudanese activist and engineer living in Portsmouth. He told Socialist Worker, “There has been nothing like this in Sudan for 30 years. It’s not going to end until the regime is completely toppled.”
Maher, another Sudanese activist in Portsmouth, told Socialist Worker, “There is a big possibility that the regime could fall. The government has lost people’s trust completely. I don’t think it is going to survive.
“Sudan is in theory a very rich country. But we have thieves and gangs in charge. They are looking for solutions and they are talking about talking to the people. But it’s too late for that now.”
Dr Sarah Abdelgalil spoke at a Socialist Workers Party meeting in Bristol last week. “What’s happening in Sudan is an uprising,” she said. “It’s not a protest just because of the price of bread or fuel. We want democratic change and the stepping down of the current regime.”
Thousands protested in the capital Khartoum on Thursday of last week. Demonstrators chanted, “Freedom, peace, justice and the revolution is people’s choice.”
Hundreds gathered in the Zamzam refugee camp in Darfur on the same day, to protest against the regime. Other demonstrations took place in El Obeid, North Kurdufan, and in Al Jazirah state.
Anti-government activist Kamal Mohammed said the revolt was “ignited by the young generation”.
“This is the generation that saw the Arab Spring,” he said. “They were inspired by this.”
For Sudanese journalist Mohammed Elsharif, who was involved in an uprising there in 1985, the revolt today is “fantastic”. He said, “Women are leading the protests. That shows how the nation has changed.
“The regime turned Sudanese against each other—people in South Sudan, Darfur and the north.”
But the revolt is undermining these divisions.
Kamal said, “What’s happening in Sudan now is bringing people together. We hear slogans such as, ‘We are all Darfur.’ This has never happened before.”
The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) is involved with organising the protests. Haliem explained that the SPA involves newer union groups after trade unions in Sudan were “hijacked by the regime”.
Maher said, “The people who are leading the revolution are from different categories—doctors, engineers, workers. They don’t belong to one party and the majority are quite young.”
The SPA’s demands include the “immediate withdrawal of Bashir and his regime from the rule of the country unconditionally”. It wants a transitional government to move Sudan towards democracy.
“We’re not just talking about toppling the regime,” said Kamal. “We’re talking about peace, liberty and a sustainable democracy.”
Haliem described some of the barriers to winning significant change. “There are all kinds of security and armed forces working to support the regime,” he said. “This is the main obstacle.”
The regime has imposed emergency laws and curfews in some cities. Over 50 people have been killed since the protests began, police have used live ammunition on protesters. And activists say around 1,000 people have been arrested.
But it hasn’t quelled the revolt. “People are going out in bigger numbers every time,” said Maher.
Opposition groups met on Wednesday of last week and called on the regular armed forces to stop backing the regime and side with ordinary people. The only way to make sure this happens is to build a bigger revolt.
Mohammed said, “How can we ensure that the people who go into the streets are protected?
“The people in the street need to know they have the whole world behind them.”
Haliem said, “We need to put pressure on the British government to act.
“Hundreds if not thousands of people have been harmed or injured. I have a friend who still has a bullet inside him. Hospitals have been dismantled and the only ones operating are private sector.”
Many Sudanese people in Britain have been involved in building solidarity for other groups facing oppression. A day of solidarity protests is planned for 2 March.
“All of us need to work together to send a clear message to the dictator we are in solidarity with the Sudanese uprising,” said Kamal.
Mohammed said, “This is about people who have decided they want a better future. We need to understand that this is not beyond us.”
A history of imperialist plunder
The uprising in Sudan is the result of decades of attacks on ordinary people, by both imperialist powers and Sudanese rulers.
Sudan’s natural wealth and strategic position were exploited by the British Empire in the 1880s. Britain’s tactics included working with slave traders.
A popular uprising defeated the British, but they returned and murdered thousands of Sudanese.
This set the stage for decades of imperial plunder. British rule ripped apart a complex, multi-ethnic society that had developed over centuries. It ended as part of the huge anti-imperialist movements that erupted after the Second World War.
The current ruler of the North East African state, Omar al-Bashir, has moved closer to the US and Western imperialist powers.
Sanctions imposed by the US were lifted after al-Bashir sent 1,000 troops to support the Western-backed Saudi invasion of Yemen.
Omar al-Bashir grabbed power in a military coup in 1989. He banned political opposition and installed one-party rule.