Sudan’s revolt suffered a setback this week as opposition leaders called off a general strike—despite its huge success. But there are also reports of soldiers refusing to attack protesters.
The opposition coordinating group the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC) ended the strike and civil disobedience campaign on Wednesday.
It certainly wasn’t because it was a failure. Reports from the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a group at the centre of the revolt, showed it won massive support.
It detailed workers’ participation in the strike on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of this week as nearly 100 percent of rail workers, around 85 percent in other public transport, 90 percent in the education sector, 90 percent of aviation workers, 85 percent of shipping and sea freight, 80 percent in oil and gas, 90 percent in telecoms, 98 percent in White Nile sugar, 80 percent in Halfa sugar.
It added, “Main roads in Khartoum and Greater Khartoum have been mostly left vacant with minimal activity. Similar sights have also been reported in roads in other main cities across Sudan.”
Nevertheless the AFC said it would suspend the campaign and seek to resume negotiations with the military.
The move enraged and disappointed sections of people. Some responses on the SAP Facebook page asked why the strike was off without clear gains.
Talks have not reopened and a leading member of Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) told the Financial Times newspaper that the army will continue to rule the country until elections—which it will control—are held.
The military’s apparently democratic call for early elections is a sham because they will be allowed to have only one result—support for the generals.
Lieutenant General Salah Abdel Khalig said civilian government could happen only when “national security” had been guaranteed.
Khalig added that he felt talks with the opposition “will not go well. They behave like kids—they are not behaving like adult politicians”.
The potential for change remains huge if the strike is restarted and there is a move away from talks to creating alternative sources of power. These could grow from the strike committees that were formed during the general strike.
In addition there are reports that dozens of Sudanese police and military officers have been arrested because they refused orders to use violence against protesters.
“Most of these officers refused to participate in the massacre and dispersal of the sit-in,” one source told the Middle East Eye news website. They were referring to the killing of more than 100 protesters when Sudanese security forces assaulted the protest in Khartoum on 3 June.
But mutinies will happen widely only if there is a determined and resolute opposition to the military. One that hesitates and compromises will not encourage soldiers to risk their lives in revolt.
A further danger is that the US is trying to shape the outcome in Sudan.
The US’s newly appointed special envoy to Sudan, Donald Booth, and the assistant secretary of state for Africa, Tibor Nagy, met TMC chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on Thursday.
The AFC said its leaders had briefed the two US officials. But the US diplomats were also expected to meet top envoys from its allies Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. These states back and encourage the generals’ murderous assaults.
The fight for change in Sudan is threatened by the ruthless military, the influence of outside powers, and the limited scale of change envisaged by some in the AFC.
It is again urgent to fight for a return to strikes and street mobilisations, not talks with the military butchers.