Sudan: ‘The people will win in the end’

March 21, 2023
A protest in Khartoum in March last year. Inset: Hoyam Abbas

Green Left’s Alex Bainbridge recently interviewed Hoyam Abbas, from the United Sudanese Revolutionary Forces Abroad, about the current stage of Sudan's democratic revolution against military rule.

Abbas told GL that the current struggle against dictatorship and for a transition to civilian rule began in late 2018, with the overthrow of the Omar al Bashir regime. From the very beginning, said Abbas, the transition of power has not occurred in accordance with the constitution.

"At the beginning of the revolution in 2019 [there was] an agreement struck between the government and the political parties and unfortunately that agreement was overturned by the coup in October [2021],” said Abbas, when the coup government “threw all the parties out of government and tried to shape it into what they wanted”.

In response, the Sudanese people went out on the streets “to make fundamental change”, Abbas said. “They are looking to change the whole regime, not just the people sitting at the top of the government.”

Abbas explained that Islamist groups took over the government in 1989 through a military coup that brought al Bashir to power. “They are still inside the ministries and they hijacked the agreement.” When the military coup took over the government in October, 2021, the people opposed it and went out onto the streets again. “They are still protesting because they want real change to the government, not artificial change.”

One development that has helped tilt the balance of forces in favour of the revolution has been the formation of grassroots Resistance Committees, which coordinate protest activity and other civic tasks in the neighbourhoods.

“The Resistance Committees are looking for freedom, justice and peace.

“They are looking for change through protesting. They believe that change comes from the grassroots, that power comes from the people, from the parliament  ... so they are going back to the neighbourhoods, back to the grassroots.”

Revolutionary Charter for People's Power

Abbas told GL that Revolutionary Committees across the country came together recently to sign an agreement and launch the Revolutionary Charter for Establishing People’ Power in Sudan (RCEPP), in which “they describe what they want exactly and how a [civilian] government would look”.

In terms of where things stand today, Abbas said: “Right now, two things are happening ... a political agreement is happening again between some parties – not all of them – and the militants [inside the coup government].

“The Resistance Committees have refused [to enter into that agreement] ... They are looking for what they call a grassroots organisation for grassroots change ... They said they do not agree with this type of framing agreement, which is not expressing what the people of Sudan are looking for, but this is only a political game between the military and these parties, the types of parties who had made an agreement with the previous [coup] government.

“The people are looking to establish a new education, health, economy, everything. ... They want to take over and they want the previous regime out.

The RCEPP, published in January, aims to initiate a process of “public and open discussion” to formulate a grassroots political vision for Sudan. The discussions will be organised “by the Resistance Committees; elected trade unions and other revolutionary forces with genuine belief in the necessity of bringing about radical change”.

According to the RCEPP, “Restoring national sovereignty and the power of the people remains our main battle against this dictatorship,” and the Sudanese Revolution is not just about ridding the country of the coup government, but “instating a national transformative project, capable of solidly unifying all Sudanese people, on the basis of state of citizenship and equal rights, a project that enables them to restore their decision and their political and economic independence, in a democratic civil state.”

The RCEPP outlines the Resistance Committees’ rationale for not entering into an agreement with the coup regime and for raising what it calls the “3-Nos position: No negotiation, No partnership, No legitimacy”, saying that, based on its direct experience of the military junta, “from the revolutionary prism and logic, such a partnership is undoubtedly a mere ‘zero-sum game’ as it only took us back to square one by imposing a de facto military coup against which we protested in the first place.”

The RCEPP calls for a revolutionary change to bring about a “thorough national restructuring” of the Sudanese Army, which “continues to control and reproduce the tools of violence and hegemony over the Sudanese people as well as exploiting state resources, instead of acting as an institutional power, designed for defending the people and the natural resources of the country”.

It also sets out over its 50 pages the various transitional measures and bodies, including legislative councils, which will need to be established at the local, state and national level to bring about a democratic transition of power.

‘We will win’

Abbas said the local legislative councils “would come from the neighbourhoods, through election. If they are elected they can talk on behalf of [the people]. The parties, they can be a part of it, but after the transition happens”.

“The elections to it would not just happen across the big cities, but in the small neighbourhoods, in the villages. The people create the ‘parliament’ and the parliament makes the decisions, chooses the ministries, the cabinet – not [like now], where everything comes ready from the top to the bottom.

“The hierarchy [will be] the opposite. Now [it is] from the top to the bottom. Well, the bottom is going to be on the top and they [will] choose the ministry, they [will] create the government, how they want, they [will] design everything according to what [the Sudanese people] need.

“The Sudanese people need safety, peace, they need a good economy, a good education, they need good health.

“In this Charter they describe everything: how it is going to be [established] through committees, through professional people, not just politicians. No party can just take over.

“[I]f you want to work on health, then bring in the professional people, let the professional people deal with the government, deal with the situation.

“The same with the economy ... with justice, and [to bring] peace. We have a lot of war in Sudan and these [commissions] are going to look over the problem and look to solve the problem.”

As well as signing the RCEPP, the Resistance Committees are still organising protests. “They are asking for freedom, for peace, for justice," said Abbas. "They are blocking the streets, they are chanting ... for what they want.

“Their power comes from the people themselves. The government has power from guns, from money. When they took over the government, it looked like they held the authority, the power. When you look you’re going to say: ‘Oh. The power is with the military’s side. And right now the government has huge power. But the revolution depends on people – the majority of people – and the majority is now on the street. The majority in Sudan — more than a million people — refuse this [coup government], according to the news [media] six million have been in the streets ... [and] they stand up for the revolution.

“You use human power, not the gun, and it is a peace[ful] revolution. We don’t have a gun, we have a voice. And we need everybody listening because the game is not just a policy game, it is a human fight. People in Sudan, they don’t have rights, you don’t have the right to talk, you don’t have the right to live in peace. They took all your rights.

“You have a right to have a good education, you have a right to have a good house, you have a right to peace. We don’t have this. How can we call it a government?”

Abbas is optimistic about the struggle. “According to history, the people, the communities will win. According to history of all the revolutions it is said that ... no matter what ... always the voice of right wins in the end.”

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