Months of protest have forced the army to remove Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir. It is the second victory in a week for mass mobilisations against dictatorial regimes in North Africa.
But the process of change is limited and needs to go much further. One of the groups that has led the protests has called on soldiers to stand with the people and not allow the generals to steal the revolution.
They have launched a social media hashtag “He hasn’t yet fallen”.
Sudan’s minister of defence announced on Thursday that the army had removed Bashir and set up a transitional military council to rule the country for two years. He also announced a three-month state of emergency.
Sudan’s cabinet and its parliament have been dissolved, and the country’s constitution suspended.
All political prisoners detained by the security services since anti-government demonstrations began in December will be released.
Bashir had ruled since a military coup in 1989. The army moved to eject him because the protests were becoming a threat to much wider sections of the regime and the ruling class. In addition the US and Britain had signalled on Wednesday that they did not back him.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets last Saturday. And for six days there has been a mass occupation of an area in front of the army headquarters that also houses the president’s official residence.
The military said Bashir was now being “kept at a safe place”. There are reports troops have arrested Sudan’s prime minister Mohamed Taher Ayala and the head of the ruling National Congress Party, Ahmed Haroun.
The former defence minister and two vice-presidents have also been arrested. Troops stormed the Islamic Movement headquarters, part of the ruling party, on Thursday.
The protests broke out on 19 December as people rallied against the government tripling the price of a loaf of bread.
They rapidly spread across many of Sudan’s major towns and cities, including areas that were supposedly strongholds of the regime. Protesters’ slogans generalised from bread prices to opposition to years of economic hardship and the denial of democracy.
Women and young people have been prominent in the protests. The demonstrations have also united people from different groups in Sudanese society. For example, all protesters have taken up the demand for the rights of people in Darfur.
One of the main groups that has been spearheading the nationwide demonstrations is the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA). This is based mainly on doctors, teachers and journalists. It urged Khartoum residents to mass outside army headquarters on Thursday.
SPA spokesman Elmuntasir Ahmed said, “We won’t allow the regime to reproduce itself or for the army to be the sole power.”
The SPA added in a statement, “The Sudanese crisis is chronic and cannot be solved from the top down.”
Large crowds remained on the streets of Khartoum throughout Thursday and Friday morning ignoring a curfew declared by the country’s new military council.
Nobody should trust the army to bring the change that the protesters have fought for. The generals want to end the revolt and stop a real transformation that would benefit workers and the poor.
The key agency in forcing the removal of Bashir has been the mass mobilisations. There have also been some strikes.
People will need to stay on the streets and stop the army strangling the movement. A general strike is the best response to the army’s actions.
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