By Charlie Kimber
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Sudan – a history of a mass revolt

This article is over 4 years, 5 months old
A timeline of the inspiring six-month revolt in Sudan which has raised issues about revolution today
Issue 2661
Women have played a key role in the revolt
Women have played a key role in the revolt (Pic: @iAlaaSalah/

19 December 2018 Sudan revolts: 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.

Furious protesters set fire to the local offices of Bashir’s National Congress Party in Atbara, a city at the heart of Sudan’s railway network with a long legacy of workers’ resistance.

By the evening, other towns in northern Sudan were joining the protests, inspired by Atbara, and more followed the next day.

Mass protests in Sudan rock Omar al-Bashir’s regime
Mass protests in Sudan rock Omar al-Bashir’s regime
  Read More

25 December 2018 the revolt grows: Protests had now spread through most parts of the country. Central to the developing revolt was the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA). This group, centred on teachers, doctors, engineers, pharmacists and similar layers, called workplace actions and helped to coordinate marches.

On 25 December the SPA rallied thousands for a march on the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum to deliver a petition calling for Bashir’s resignation.

Security forces responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and live fire that dispersed the protesters before they could get near their target.

January to March 2019 repression can’t halt the fightback: In an effort to break the revolt, Bashir combined repression with concessions,. He cancelled plans to remove bread subsidies,

But the movement had grown well beyond this specific issue.

The SPA pushed for Sudanese opposition groups to form a coalition against the government, signing the Declaration of Freedom and Change of basic democratic demands. This has become the common document charting the path forward.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC) acts as the umbrella group for the opposition.

Its demands were far more than Bashir would accept, but do not call for a complete restructuring of Sudanese society.

Trying to divide the movement, the government accused students from the Darfur region, where Bashir is accused of killing 300,000 people, of being behind the protests.

The response from protesters elsewhere in Sudan was to chant, “We are all Darfur”.

By now daily protests were taking place in Khartoum, with leadership frequently coming from women. Students were also at the forefront.

Localised “resistance committees” were set up to organise activities.

State forces killed at least 40 people in the first month of protest.

In February, Bashir reshuffled his government and replaced regional governors with military commanders and imposed a state of emergency.

6 April the start of the sit-ins: The SPA called for a march on the military headquarters in Khartoum.

Fragmented protests became a unified show of mass resistance. And there was inspiration from Algeria in North Africa where the dictator Abdelaziz Bouteflika had just been forced out.

Instead of leaving at the end of the march in Khartoum, protesters occupied the area around the headquarters and began an indefinite sit-in.

They set up barricades to protect against attacks from security forces, organised food, water and security, began cultural projects and held constant discussions.

Sudan sit-in shows how ordinary people can run society and win real change
Sudan sit-in shows how ordinary people can run society and win real change
  Read More

The example spread to some other cities.

And workers began to protest not just as individuals but as organised groups from workplaces.

11 April Bashir goes, the military remain: Fearing the scale of the protests, the military leaders announce that Bashir has been removed. For a few hours there are widespread celebrations.

But the military say they are taking control of the country for a “transitional” period. They want to maintain the structure of the old regime despite the removal of the figurehead—Bashir-ism without Bashir.

Protesters immediately returned to the streets to demand the military council step aside and by the next day, the man leading the new military council, Awad Ibn Auf, was forced out.

The sit-ins remained in place.

The military council opened negotiations with opposition leaders. But there was never agreement about the balance of power between civilians and the military.

28 and 29 May the general strike: Strikes had been increasing alongside the street protests. Now the opposition was pushed to call a general strike. It was hugely successful with public and private sector workers taking part across the country.

Strike committees were set up in some areas to coordinate the action. Debates began about whether these committees could be the basis for a challenge for power. But less radical voices in the AFC argued for negotiations with the military.

It was clear that a crisis point was coming. Ominously the military ­leaders went on a tour of reactionary nearby states—Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—all of whom offered support.

Sudan—a revolt on the brink
Sudan—a revolt on the brink
  Read More

3 June the massacre: Led by the notorious Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitaries, military council forces stormed the Khartoum sit-in and killed at least 110 people. The bodies of victims were thrown into the Nile, women were raped and tents were set on fire.

The RSF quickly spread throughout Khartoum, breaking down roadblocks.

There were immediate protests and a general strike began. It was a huge success but after three days the opposition leaders called it off.

Facing ferocious repression, protests were now smaller.

30 June a call for millions to march: Hoping to regain the initiative, the AFC calls for mass marches across Sudan. People responded magnificently.


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