The sell-out deal last week between the military and prime minister Abdalla Hamdok could have derailed the mass movement that has been fighting for democracy and social justice in Sudan.
But the great majority of those who have taken to the street since the coup on 25 October have denounced the agreement and are continuing to mobilise.
Sudanese activist Mohamed thinks the military have won themselves a breathing space through the deal. “I am very angry with Hamdok,” he says. “For nearly a month people went on to the streets to demand his freedom from arrest and his restoration to the post of prime minister.
“People gave their blood, their lives for this. But instead of being together with that mass movement, he went behind their backs and come to an agreement with the man who led the coup, General Abdel al-Burhan. This is a whitewash. It is a betrayal.
“The correct position is, ‘No negotiation, no partnership and no legitimacy for the putschists’.
“This is a popular message in Sudan. When the deal was announced I was fearful that groups like the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), which is full of people who want compromises, might support it.
“But they sensed that if they did so, they would no longer have support. They would be swept away.
“Some of the FFC still want to do a deal, and a section of its leaders met Hamdok last week. More traitors!
“Hamdok made a big announcement that he had ordered the Sudanese police not to attack the marches on Thursday last week. What happened? The police fired tear gas at protesters in Omdurman, North Kordofan and North Darfur.
“Hamdok said that protest was the right of the people. And the police just ignore him.”
Many in the movement are realistic about the enemy they face. Activist Hatim says, “I expect the government will ceaselessly carry on the violence as the only available measures given their desperation and the fact that they are essentially composed of militias.”
Moussa agrees, “If the military are in charge we know it will be a very cruel regime. The number of demonstrators, peaceful demonstrators, who have been killed is horrific.”
Enas added, “Burhan has no principles. We should recognise that this will be a difficult struggle. The military have their hands on the money. Last year the government said 80 percent of the country’s public resources were “outside the finance ministry’s control”—that’s the military’s share.
“And the military also have the guns and the tear gas and all the equipment to put down demonstrations.”
Zeinab’s family comes from Darfur, the region which has faced the harshest repression for many years. “Attacks on Darfuris by the central government and its militias have been going on for 18 years,” she said. “In the last two years, because they feared they would lose control after al-Bashir was forced out, the murderous Rapid Support Forces (RSF) increased their attacks in some areas.
“And then after the coup it was like a switch had been turned again. Last week the RSF and its allies burnt 28 villages, they raped children and women. This is not a regime you can do deals with.
“Our only hope is the development of the revolution. Last week on the demonstration in Khartoum I saw people chanting ‘We are all Darfur’.
“That is so important because it is the movement overcoming the divides pushed from the regime.”
Despite the bloodshed, activists have a profound belief in the possibility of victory. Hatim says, “The socialists in Sudan have been and still are spearheading the revolution.”
He believes, “The Sudan Communist Party (SCP) refused right from the outset to participate in the transitional government which was a civilian and military partnership.
“The SCP predicted that the military council was not loyal to the revolution’s ideals. The military is serving the former regime on one side, and the capitalist interests of countries such as Egypt and United Arab Emirates on the other.
“The task remains to topple the coup’s government and establish a complete civilian transitional rule with no negotiations or concessions with the military.
“The revolution is stronger and more united than before and we count on our peaceful struggle to restore what we lost.”
Enas adds, “It has been so inspiring to see the extraordinary level of resistance, unarmed people facing live ammunition. This is in contrast to the attitude of what’s called the international community. I think the lack of international pressure on Burhan was the single biggest factor why the coup did not fail immediately.
“But the people will continue to fight for democratic government.”
The test now is turning the courage and determination of protesters into effective action.
Last Thursday saw tens of thousands on the streets again, rejecting in practice the deal and insisting that resistance was the way forward.
But at present there seem to be fewer strikes than in 2019 when workers’ stoppages and a big general strike were crucial to forcing back the military, at least temporarily.
The combination of strikes and the coordination of the resistance committees could create an alternative power to Hamdok and Burhan and point towards a real revolution that uses Sudan’s wealth for workers and the poor.
Some personal details of these activists have been left out to prevent identification
Extracts from a message from Khartoum State Resistance Committees,
22 November 2021
‘Whomsoever had faith in Hamdok, that faith must die. But those who have faith in the revolution, the revolution is alive and well!
We hereby declare that the agreement that has been reached by The Coup Military Council and the former PM Hamdok, does not concern us. We continue to adhere by our firm position whereby there will be no negotiation.
The unified position of the committees is “Just Fall”—a call for the reigning illegitimate powers to concede their hold on our country.
We call on all the revolutionaries and the peoples of Sudan to stand in formation on the streets the goals of the revolution are fully achieved.’
Doctor Reem took part in the early phases of the Sudanese revolution in and has watched the developments since.
“I was working in a military hospital in Khartoum in December 2018,” she says. “As the revolt against Omar al-Bashir began, one of the central forces was the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) which organised people such as lawyers and doctors.
“Our weapon was street protests but also strikes. In general, doctors struck except for emergency services. But as I was in a military hospital we closed everything.
“On the ground we provided care for protesters. At the end of that month I smelled the tear gas for the first time. And then I saw the injuries go from the wounds caused by rubber bullets to the injuries and deaths caused by live ammunition.
“It was around this time I was arrested when the militias attacked a small mobile clinic set up in a school. They bombarded it with tear gas—it was a tiny space with no ventilation.
“When I fled from the gas they grabbed me and threw me in a truck. I was beaten and whipped. We were taken to a room, about 65 women together, where they said we would be raped.
“The army were even more brutal to women than men because women were such an important part of the fight, as they are now. I was released, but others were taken to the Shendi centre where they were tortured with electric shocks and other methods.
“One thing we all learnt in the process of the revolution was about the crimes in Darfur. We had never really known of this in Khartoum. Now it became clear to us the horror of what had occurred.
“There is a big difference between 2018 and 2019 and what is happening now. Back then it was the SPA and the FFC that were dominant. This time it is the civil resilience committees and the disobedience committees that are the main force.
“The revolution is coming from the people themselves.
“The committees I know have two main functions at the moment. The first is to organise protests. They not only call people on to the streets at synchronised times, but also arrange protection for when the attacks come. They set up shelter to go to when the military launch their assaults and provide mobile clinics.
“This is carefully organised, with people going on the protests with collapsible stretchers on their backs, ready for what they know will come.
“The second function is meetings and talks, a big educational process and discussion to maintain unity against the divide and rule tactics of the regime.
“The Hamdok-Burhan deal has caused division. Some people say that Hamdok had no choice.
“Many others, and I am one of them, say you cannot shake hands with a killer. But we must not forget that our power is in our unity. Whichever side this agreement has put you on, in the end we must not let them divide us and continue to stand as one in the streets
“This time I think we are stronger because we are not relying on anybody except the people organising from below.
“So this movement has no colour, no alliance to any political party or power. It is people on the street fighting for justice for their brothers and sisters who died on the field with them
“The political parties, including the SCP bickered and quarrelled during the period of the transitional government, neglecting the interests of the people and that gave the military a wedge to use to sustain themselves.
“The regime is not frightened of them, it is the committees they fear. Look at the detainees who are being released. The ones they hold longest are the people who organise the committees.
“In its way this is a compliment to their strength. This is where hope lies.”
Send a message from your trade union or campaign group to the Coordination of Resistance Committees in Khartoum resistancecommittee.com/en/contact-us/
Join the emergency conference Solidarity with the Sudanese Revolution. Monday 6 December. Details at bit.ly/Sudan612
Join solidarity protests in Britain. Your local SWP branch will know when these are.
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