The fight for change in Sudan is growing stronger. But there are major challenges to come.
Ordinary people are battling to wrest control from an undemocratic elite.
After the removal on 11 April of dictator Omar al-Bashir through strikes and protests, an army-led military council remains in control. It still insists it will rule for two years and that there cannot be civilian government before that.
But the people whose protests drove out Bashir have not stopped their mobilisations. In fact they have stepped them up.
Huge crowds formed outside Sudan’s defence ministry in the capital Khartoum on Thursday demanding an end to military rule. Hundreds of thousands packed the streets – the largest crowds to gather in the centre of the capital since last week.
Protesters chanted, “Freedom and revolution are the choice of the people,” and “Civilian rule, civilian rule”. Giant screens showed a film documenting apparent abuses by the security services.
Demonstrators then joined the sit-in outside the military headquarters that began on 6 April and was crucial in defeating Bashir. The sit-in is seeing intense self-organisation with teams of volunteers coordinating “mobilisation, cooking, guarding, cleaning, cheering, singing, and all forms of support”.
There is also a major art project commemorating all those who have fought for justice beginning with the revolt against British rule in 1881.
Women are insisting on better recognition inside the movement.
Journalist Malaz Esam of the Sudanese Journalists Network told Radio Dabanga that the representation of women in the negotiating committees is very weak, although women have been and remain the most prominent participants in the protests.
“The committee that is talking with the Interim Military Junta cannot have nine men and one woman at a time when we are in the field with equal proportion,” she said.
The movement is not confined to Khartoum. The model of how to protest is spreading through Sudan.
Sit-ins outside army units and military teams in Port Sudan, El Obeid, Kadugli, El Gedaref, and Mukjar began three days ago.
There were also anti-military demonstrations in Sinja, Sennar and Port Sudan in eastern Sudan, El Abbasiya and El Tartar and Kadugli in South Kordofan and for the third day in a row in Central Darfur.
People who have lived for years in desperate poverty in “displaced people’s camps” in Darfur are holding near-continuous protests. “At last there is hope, we must not let this pass,” said one demonstrator.
Workers are also mobilising.
On Wednesday Khartoum saw mass demonstrations by journalists, doctors and other health workers “in support of the Sudanese revolution”.
The day before hundreds of staff and graduates of the University of Khartoum marched from the university to a sit-in in support of the protesters and their demands.
Dr Mamdouh El Jazouli, a representative of the university’s lecturers, said, “We came to deliver our voice to the protesters and assure them that we at Khartoum University – the lecturers, all other staff members, and graduates – are with them until they achieve their demands.”
He added, “So far, we have not seen all symbols of the former regime, the perpetrators who killed thousands and looted our wealth, detained. We have not seen them strapped in prison, nor have we seen the deep state that has beset the Sudanese for more than 30 years dismantled.”
Discussions are continuing on the next steps among those who are fighting to remove the military from power.
One important body is the Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change (FDFC). This is centred on the Sudanese Professionals Association, the group of teachers, pharmacists, doctors, journalists, engineers and others who played a big part in coordinating the recent strikes and protests.
An FDFC statement on Thursday rightly said, “Our people’s ongoing strikes and protests represent the guarantor for carrying out the revolution’s aims.”
It called for a move to a Transitional Civil Authority with a presidential council, ministers and most importantly a council to carry out legislative tasks.
At least 40 percent of the council’s members would be women and there would be recognition of “the ethnic, religious and cultural diverse makeup of Sudanese society”.
How will these people be chosen? The statement says, “The constituent figures of the transitional civilian authority structures will be announced in the next few days, following the completion of an extensive consultation process, which will ensure a fair and balanced representation of all the Sudanese revolutionary forces.”
That is a process driven from the top, not controlled by those in the streets and on strike.
The movement against the military will be strongest if there is organisation, elections, accountability and direction from those who are making the revolution.
And there will need to be deep economic change. As Khartoum-based researcher Osama Abuzaid writes, ” Major economic institutions and commercial activities were under the exclusive control of Bashir’s National Congress Party”.
Workers and the poor must take them back.
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