Sudan: Protests demand end to military rule

Issue 
A Sudanese woman protester. Photo: @TheSamahKhater/Twitter

Protests have continued across Sudan since the military coup on October 25. At least 30 cities participated in the 12th nation-wide mass mobilisation on January 6, despite a crackdown by the coup forces. At least three pro-democracy protesters were killed by security forces on that day, bringing the death toll to at least 60 since the October 25 military coup, which ended a transitional power-sharing agreement between the military and civilian forces.

The January 6 protest followed Abdalla Hamdok’s resignation as Sudan’s prime minister, after he was deposed in the coup and then shortly restored to power by the military in November.

However, Sudanese activist Marine Alneel told from Khartoum on January 7 that protesters on the ground regard Hamdok’s resignation as insignificant and consider him irrelevant to the fight for full democratic control over the government.

The civilian slogan is now “no negotiation, no partnership, no legitimacy”, she told DN!, saying protesters are no longer interested in preserving the joint military-civilian governing deal signed after the mass protests in 2019 that toppled dictator Omar al-Bashir.

Alneel told DN! that ongoing and well-organised protests are calling for civilian government, for the military to return to its barracks and to withdraw from the political scene.

“We have now neighbourhood resistance committees announcing the protest schedule by the month. So, we’ve had that in December, and now we have that for January.

“These protests have been faced by violent repression by military forces, police forces, Rapid Support Forces [Janjaweed] and other militias and armed forces of the government. Protesters are facing tear gas, beatings, rubber bullets and live ammunition, and even anti-craft machinery. We’ve had a martyr that has died by this type of weapon.”

The night before the announced protests, “bridges of the tri-capital city of Khartoum are barricaded with shipping containers”, in order to prevent protesters joining up with each other in the city, said Alneel. “However, previously the protesters managed to overcome these containers peacefully.”

“And after the protests, usually we see the armed forces raiding hospitals, attacking doctors and other medical staff, even arresting some of the injured and sometimes chasing the vehicles that have tried to transport the injured from the protests to hospitals. One of the martyrs of yesterday’s protest was chased by armed forces when the other protesters tried to rescue him and transport him to a nearby hospital.”

Hamdock’s resignation has raised the level of the Sudanese people’s struggle to win civilian democratic rule, said Alneel.

“In 2019, the Sudanese Professionals Association was leading the protests,” she explained. The main chants at that time were ‘Hurriya, salam wa ’adala’ (‘freedom, peace and justice’).

“That ended with the ousting of Omar al-Bashir, and then a power-sharing deal was signed between the Forces of Freedom and Change, which the Sudanese Professionals Association was part of. And that power-sharing deal led to the transitional government that has lasted for about two years and ended with the military coup on October 25.

“Now what the people are calling for is — the new slogans are — ‘no negotiation, no partnership, no legitimacy’. So, people are no longer interested in any sort of partnership with the military.

“In 2019, many people were displeased with the partnership, and now mostly people are outright rejecting any form of partnership with the military. And currently, although we’re seeing on a lot of international media outlets that these protests are being called for by the Forces of Freedom and Change or the Sudanese Professionals Association, that is far from the reality.

“In reality, the entities that are leading this movement are the neighborhood resistance committees, which have developed mainly in 2019 to help organize the protests in neighborhoods, in different neighborhoods, and are now the leading entity announcing the protests and are actually the voice of the people, that is still saying ‘no negotiation, no partnership, no legitimacy’.

“As for Hamdok’s resignation, it has been mostly insignificant for the protests on the ground. And since he signed on November 21st a deal with General Lieutenant al-Burhan, the head of the military co-council, people have considered him the secretary of the coup. He was no longer relevant to the people. And when he signed that agreement as an individual, it’s more like a war contract with the coup rather than any agreement. So his resignation has been irrelevant to people. Some have chanted, ‘Whether he resigned or not, the schedule keeps going’, which is basically the schedule of the announced protests.

“Currently the main demand is for the military to get out of the political scene. We are demanding a genuine civilian government, not a power-sharing deal of unequivalent parties, rather a genuinely civilian leadership. That is the main demand.

“And what we’re seeing from international entities is that there’s some condemnation of the violent repression of the protests; however, with that comes an urging of the current authority to go back to the 2019 deal or to go back to a pre-coup state. And that’s not what the people are asking for. And that is not what will lead to stability.

“So, let’s say even, for example, if General Lieutenant al-Burhan manages to find a civilian to take over the role of the prime minister, that is still not what people are calling for. And definitely that will not lead to stability. More protests will continue on happening until we reach our demands to be genuinely met and the military to be out of power.”

The economic situation in Sudan is dire. The military owns many of the country’s largest enterprises in its own right and traditionally received more than 70% of the country’s budget. Meanwhile the price of basic foods has skyrocketed. To compound the situation, international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have held the country to ransom, demanding that government subsidies on basic goods be lifted.

“In essence, these protests and the demands of the people, whether before the coup or right now, it is about livelihood,” said Alneel.

“We’ve seen that the transitional government was not prioritizing the livelihood of the Sudanese people. And the military is definitely not prioritizing the livelihood of the Sudanese people. It is killing us. We now have 60 martyrs, at least, since the coup.

“We now want a civilian leadership that will prioritize our livelihood and not the international interests of the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank.”