Socialist Worker

Sudanese protests and strikes resist coup in the face of military repression

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2779

Protesters in the city of Atbara on Tuesday

Protesters in the city of Atbara on Tuesday


Huge protests are sweeping across Sudan to confront the military coup that took place on Monday.

The independent news service Radio Dabanga reports that protesters chanted, “Returning to the past is not an option,” and, “The people are stronger.” They blocked streets and burned car tyres, especially in the cities of Khartoum and Omdurman. By Wednesday protesters had sealed off large areas of Khartoum against military and police incursions.

Large numbers also took to the street in Atbara, a city that has a long history of militant workers’ resistance.

Protests are also taking place in other parts of the country. In El Gezira in the Red Sea state and River Nile state people have blocked roads and chanted slogans against coup leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

“The revolution is a revolution of the people,” said the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which is led by doctors, engineers and lawyers. “Power and wealth belongs to the people. No to a military coup.”

Brutal repression—which saw state forces kill at least seven people on the first day of protests and 140 injured—has not stopped the fightback. Thousands of protesters stormed the perimeter of the Sudanese Armed Forces general command building in Khartoum before the military forces fired bullets and tear gas.

A large number of demonstrators also gathered in front of the parliament in Omdurman.

Importantly, organised workers are also acting.

Workers

The Sudanese Teachers’ Committee urged all school workers to join the civil disobedience and street protests until full civilian rule.

And on Wednesday the SPA announced that oil workers had organised a strike that has been "100 per cent successful".

Airport workers have launched strikes designed to stop all flights into and out of the country from Tuesday to Saturday.

University workers have called for civil disobedience and suspension of classes.

Hospital workers’ organisations have declared a national strike except for emergencies and say they will withdraw from military hospitals.

But the Socialist Doctors' Association did call for setting up emergency first aid facilities for protesters. “Revolution until victory,” says their statement.

Sudan’s military seized power on Monday, detaining the prime minister and other civilian political leaders.

General al-Burhan, the military chief, announced at a news conference that he was dissolving the country’s joint civilian-military government.

This government had emerged after a long period of struggle in 2019, ending in a rotten compromise. Under the terms of the transition agreement, al-Burhan was supposed to hand control of the sovereignty council to a civilian leader next month.

The military fear this could lead to investigations into their past killings of protesters and the systematic brutality in the Darfur region.

Generals and their collaborators also want to hold on to businesses they control through their political positions.

Planned 

Now activists plan escalating protests.

The Joint Chamber of the Marches of the Millions for Civilian rule and Democratic Transition has published its “revolutionary escalation schedule”. But many people are already moving at a faster pace than this programme.

On Monday, it asked trade unions to hold speeches and vigils across Sudan.

From Thursday, the chamber had called on all Sudanese people to organise protest vigils on highways, in front of government buildings and in front of embassies abroad. That had already happened, including in London.

It planned nightly marches and demonstrations on Friday and national protests on the following day. These will demand a full handover of power to civilians.

Sudan - revolution at the crossroads
Sudan - revolution at the crossroads
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The SPA urged people to break the state of emergency rules with large crowds and evening activities. And said that Burhan must face “the wrath of a people liberated from fear by the December [2018] revolution”.

The military are capable of terrible repression. At a similar point in June 2019 they carried out a massacre in an effort to intimidate protesters. Nobody should underestimate their determination to hang on to power.

Activists on Tuesday reported instances of soldiers shooting at protesters, terrorising demonstrators and raiding university halls of residence.

Abdalla Hamdok, the deposed prime minister, has been allowed to return home, according to his office. However, he remains under heavy security.

And the SPA says this move from detention to house arrest is not enough. In addition, the SPA rightly says the aim now cannot be "a return to the partnership of the poisoned [transitional government] document". Instead, it insists on "the transition to a revolutionary civilian authority". 

It will be crucial for the ­movement to abandon all illusions in negotiated agreements with the generals and instead fight to sweep them away.

They must not rely on powers such as Britain and the US, which claim to support democracy but will try to block real transformation.

And there must be an argument inside the anti-military forces about bringing together fundamental social change as well as political change.

Moving from revolt to revolution requires a force that can organise the defeat of the military and run society in a new way. There need to be workers’ councils that involve elected and accountable representatives from workplaces.

These can act as a focus for and involve other groups that have been prominent in recent revolts. This includes neighbourhood committees, women’s organisations, student groups and the democratic movements for equality and rights in the Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions.

This is a moment when the attempt to stifle revolt can instead lead to a deepening and acceleration of the push for revolution.

For solidarity actions with the Sudan democracy protesters go here 

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