Huge demonstrations swept Sudan on Thursday, emphasising the refusal of ordinary people to submit to the military government. And in an escalation from other recent protests, at the end of the marches people set up sit-ins in two areas of the capital Khartoum. This recalls the defiant tactics from 2019 which caused a deep crisis for the regime at that time.
The ruthless authorities responded with their habitual repression on Thursday. By 10pm activists reported that police and soldiers had killed nine people, most of them in the city of Omdurman. A sniper on the rooftop of The Holy Quran University in Omdurman fired live ammunition at marchers.
In Khartoum, security forces fired tear gas and water cannons to block protesters from moving towards the presidential palace. But that didn’t stop the marches. In Bahri, north of Khartoum, people forced their way across the Al Mak Nimer bridge and pushed back cops and troops.
And later the sit-ins began at Al Muassasa and Bashdar. Initially, these were declared for 24 hours, but were subject to extension depending on the participants’ votes.
Earlier, protesters barricaded some of the capital’s main thoroughfares with stones and burning tyres. Workers at Sudan’s two private sector telecoms companies said authorities had ordered them to shut down the internet throughout Thursday.
Sudan’s Radio Dabanga reported demonstrations in Nyala and Zalingei in Darfur, Kadugli in South Kordofan, El Gedaref and Kassala in eastern Sudan, and Dongola and Atbara in northern Sudan. In Port Sudan in Red Sea state, demonstrations faced repression and tear gas.
Sudanese people have fought bravely for eight months since general Abdel Fattah al‑Burhan seized power on 25 October last year. The coup ended a supposed transition towards democracy. It also put an end to a fake “power-sharing deal” between the military and civilian leaders.
Thursday was a significant date because on 30 June 1989 Omar al-Bashir led a military coup and overthrew the elected government. He ruled for nearly 30 years until 2019 when a mass movement drove him out, triggering an extended process of revolt and revolution.
Networks of resistance committees—local democratic structures that bring together activists and organise defiance of the military—organised the marches.
“We will use this day to rededicate ourselves to the process of people’s revolution,” a Sharg Al Nil Janub Coordination member in Khartoum told Socialist Worker.
The Khartoum State Resistance Committees Coordination said it hoped the marches would be “a powerful storm that overthrows the coup authority’s repressive hold on power”. “We will go out and refuse to return or renounce our duty until the coup is overthrown,” it said. “This is an open battle with them until we prevail.
“Either we achieve our objectives or perish trying. We shall accomplish what we are set out to do, despite the opposition of every traitor, coward, and slacker. And we will employ all peaceful means, such as protests, strikes, disobedience, and barricades.”
Protesters are demanding the overthrow of the regime, a civilian government and a democratic transformation.
One reason the military does not want to relinquish power is that they control large parts of the economy. A report this week from the Centre for Advanced Defence Studies (C4ADS) produced a database of 408 commercial entities controlled by security elites. They include agricultural conglomerates, banks, and medical import companies.
C4ADS is headed by figures linked to the US military establishment. It knows where the money flows in Sudan. The report said that the family of the infamously brutal Rapid Support Forces leader Mohamad Hamdan Dagalo controls over 28 percent of the shares in the major Khaleej Bank. He also has many other holdings.
Those who took to the streets on Thursday have shown immense courage and determination. But those qualities alone will not defeat the ruthless regime.
The resistance committees have to become not just protest bodies, but the centre of an alternative government to the generals and their supporters. That has to be linked to building strikes in the best-organised sections of workers—telecom, transport, finance, port workers and public services such as hospitals, schools and universities.
Recent teachers’ strikes have won real gains over pay and conditions. And 18 teachers’ committees declared they would join the 30 June demonstrations.
There are debates among the resistance committees over core issues. The Revolutionary Charter for People’s Power, adopted by resistance committees in 15 states, includes a roadmap to form a government. This would start with the selection of local councils in a process that would start immediately as part of the resistance against the coup.
But it also restricts itself to a public-private economic system which would leave much of the present wealth structure intact. The revolution has to go deeper and organise to overthrow the regime and its economic backers.
December 2018: A trebling in the price of bread and other basic goods leads to protests. They quickly became a political revolt against the regime of Omar al-Bashir who had ruled for 30 years since a military coup. Despite repression, protests grow during the next three months.
April 2019: Instead of leaving at the end of a march in Khartoum, protesters occupied the area around the military headquarters and began an indefinite sit-in. They set up barricades to protect themselves from attack, organised food, water and security, began cultural projects and held constant discussions. The example spread to some other cities. And workers began to protest not just as individuals but as organised groups from workplaces.
11 April 2019: Fearing the scale of the protests, the military leaders announce that Bashir has been removed. But the military stay in charge. The protests and sit-ins continue and on 28 and 29 May workers hold a powerful general strike.
3 June 2019: Led by the notorious Rapid Support Forces paramilitaries, military council forces stormed the Khartoum sit-in and killed at least 110 people. But protests and strikes continue.
August 2019: Instead of building on the protests to sweep away the military, a rotten agreement sees “power-sharing” between the military and the pro-democracy movement.
October 2019: Huge numbers of people come onto the streets angry at the slow pace of change and economic hardship.
July 2020: Up to a million people march “to correct the path of the revolution”.
October 2021: The transitional agreement says the military should step aside, but they launch a coup to stay in power. It’s met by immediate street protests.
6 Nov 2021: A million people demonstrate across Sudan against the military. They block roads and make clear they will not accept military control.
21 Nov 2021: Abdalla Hamdok, the ousted civilian prime minister, does a deal with general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to lead a government of technocrats for a transitional period. Most of the anti-coup opposition denounce the move as a sham designed to give the appearance of change while the military effectively stays in charge.
2 January 2022: Continuing mass street protests force Hamdok’s resignation. The United Nations and Western powers continue to seek a compromise between the people on the streets and the generals.
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