Sudan’s coup leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has said the army will make way for a civilian government. The announcement is a fraud, designed to halt growing opposition to military rule.
Huge numbers of people have launched the most significant revolt in Sudan since the coup last October. The present phase combines mass demonstrations and a return to the sit-ins that in 2019 caused a deep crisis for the regime at that time.
This is a big escalation from recent months. At the beginning of this week activists were defiantly holding sit-ins at Al Jawda in the capital Khartoum, Al Muassasa in Bahri close to Khartoum, in the city of Omdurman and in El Geneina in Darfur. Other sit-ins were beginning in different parts of the country.
They are both a focus for protests, a sign that the regime’s rule is contested and a gesture towards alternative ways of living. They have, for example, “revolutionary theatre” and other cultural events as well as discussions and debates.
The Khartoum City Resistance Committees Coordination (KSRCC) said, “We call on the masses of the Sudanese people, young and old, women and men, to flock and support the Al Jawda sit-in and to continue the open revolutionary escalation until the overthrow of the coup. The people’s word is a judgement, and their judgement is final.”
As the sit-ins grew, Burhan said the army would make way for a civilian government and would “not participate” in talks facilitated by the UN and regional governmental organisations. “The armed forces will not stand in the way” of democratic transition, Burhan said in a televised address.
He claimed the military is committed to working towards “elections in which the Sudanese people choose who will govern them”.
Nobody should believe Burhan is about to fade away. He added that a “supreme council of the armed forces” will be formed, combining the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces. This is the infamous paramilitary unit commanded by Burhan’s deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.
Burhan is concentrating the coercive power of the state to intimidate and control whatever government form emerges now. Many resistance committees responded to the speech with scorn. The Al-Kalakla committee on the outskirts of Khartoum, said it was not up to Burhan to shape the process. Instead, it said, “it is about the gallows and the guillotines for the crimes you committed against the people”.
But his speech is a sign of the deep crisis in Sudanese politics. The sit-ins follow mass demonstrations that swept Sudan on Thursday of last week. The ruthless authorities responded with their habitual repression.
Police and soldiers killed at least nine people on the day, most of them in the city of Omdurman. A sniper on the rooftop of The Holy Quran University 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 people forced their way across the Al Mak Nimer bridge and pushed back cops and troops. Earlier, protesters barricaded some of Khartoum’s main roads with stones and burning tyres.
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. 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.
It is also the third anniversary of one of the high points of the 2019 resistance. Networks of resistance committees—local democratic structures that bring together activists and organise defiance of the military—organised the marches.
The KSRCC said, “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.
Those who are holding the sit-ins and who took to the streets last week have shown immense courage and determination. But those qualities alone will not defeat the ruthless regime. The state may attempt to disperse the sit-ins with bloody repression. It is very important that protesters turn widespread talk about a general strike into action. That could cause a deep political crisis for the generals.
And if that happens, resistance committees have to become not just protest bodies, but the centre of an alternative government. That has to be linked to building strikes in the best-organised sections of workers.
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, its economic backers and target its reactionary international supporters.
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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. Such figures emphasise that as well as pushing for political change, there has to be a complete transformation of Sudan’s economic life. Wealth and power has to be stripped from the military, its hangers-on and the rich. It has to be democratically controlled by workers and the poor.
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 the 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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