The Resistance Committees (RCs) formed in neighbourhoods and cities across Sudan were the secret to bringing down the 30-year-long regime of dictator Omar al-Bashir.
These same RCs remain central to the ongoing struggle against the military forces that launched another coup in October last year, and to bringing about the victory of the Sudanese people’s revolution. This revolution seeks to establish a civil and democratic state that includes all Sudanese, regardless of religion, culture, race, gender or regional affiliation.
The militias of the deep state, regional and international forces keen to maintain the power of the military and the Janjaweed militia (also known as the Rapid Support Forces) have tried to prevent this revolution from succeeding.
The RCs formed in May, 2010 and reached their zenith in the uprising of September 2013 in the capital Khartoum and Wad Madani city in the country’s centre, when more than 200 Sudanese were martyred.
The grassroots began to recognise the role of the RCs in 2017, in small-scale protests in residential neighbourhoods, and speeches in public places, such as markets and neighbourhood gatherings. The RCs were confronted by the authorities, and young people were arrested and had their heads shaved while in custody.
Thousands of neighbourhood committees in Khartoum and other regional states coordinated the revolutionary struggle while underground from December 2018, until the overthrow of al-Bashir on April 11, 2019.
After the fall of the dictator, the RCs continued their activities to pressure the Transitional Military Council (TMC), which inherited al-Bashir’s regime because its membership consisted of the so-called security committee of the ousted regime. The TMC was swamped with processions, demonstrations and rallies.
The peaceful sit-in established outside the General Command of the Army in Khartoum and sit-ins in other states were violently dispersed by the military in a brutal massacre on June 3, 2019. More than 300 people were killed and hundreds were injured, including more than 70 young women who were raped, according to human rights organisations.
Following this brutal crackdown, the effectiveness of the RCs doubled throughout Sudan, and committees were formed in all cities and rural areas, through what was known as the Coordination of the Resistance Committees, which includes dozens of base committees.
The RCs succeeded in organising and mobilising millions of people in all cities and rural areas on June 30, 2019 (the “million man march”), turning the scales in favour of the civil state and against the TMC.
Those millions who marched, and the subsequent revolutionary movement, forced the military to submit to popular desires and enter into a partnership with civilians in a Transitional Sovereignty Council (TSC).
According to the constitutional document governing the transition period, which would last three years, the military’s powers were to be limited to the maintenance of security and some honorary and sovereign tasks. However, it was not long before the military took practical control of power through its control over important decisions such as peace, the economy and foreign relations. The military also started creating obstacles for the civilian cabinet in the implementation of justice in both its forms: criminal and transitional.
By September, following the formation of the transitional government, some leaders of the RCs appeared in public, despite being wanted by security. Some even disappeared, with suspicions that they had been deliberately killed.
The Change and Services Committees — formed by the RCs — were active in neighbourhoods, providing services such as the maintenance of schools and health centres, monitoring of food distribution, cleaning up the environment and restoring life to the cooperative society movement. But they immediately faced an active counter-campaign in cyberspace run by the deep state.
Although the RCs were marginalised and excluded from the institutions of the transitional period, they were nonetheless able to monitor the civilian-military “partnership” and continue to demand an end to the military's intrusion on executive powers.
On more than one occasion the RCs stressed the importance of completing the structures of the transitional authority, such as the Transitional Legislative Council (parliament) and ensuring its large representation on that body.
The committees lobbied hard to achieve the transitional justice stipulated in the constitutional document, including retribution on behalf of the revolution’s victims, and reaffirmed the need to reform the military and security institutions and build a single national army with a single doctrine, in which there would be no place for parallel militias.
When Sudanese Professionals Association fractured in 2020, the RCs found themselves at the forefront of the revolutionary movement once again.
When the time came for the military to hand over the presidency of the TSC to a civilian, in accordance with the constitutional document, the military staged a coup on October 25, 2021.
The second revolutionary wave began on the same day. The RCs spearheaded the rejection of the measures taken by the coup leader and TSC head, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. These measures included the declaration of a state of emergency, the dissolution of the TSC, its bodies and transitional ministers, the dismissal and arrest of Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok, and the arrest of party leaders, officials and many RC leaders.
When a power-sharing agreement was struck in late November between the military leaders and Hamdok, that would see him reinstated, the RC coordinators denounced this as legitimising the military coup in a different guise.
The role of United Nations representatives in Sudan has been problematic, calling for negotiations between the democratic forces and the military, despite its continuing violence against the people. Volker Peretz, head of the UN Integrated Mission in Sudan, invited RC representatives to hold a joint meeting with him on November 29, to hear their views on developments since the coup. The RCs accepted the invitation, but requested that the meeting be broadcast directly on their media committees’ platforms — a request that was rejected by the UN mission.
The meeting did not take place, and days later the RCs instead handed Peretz a memorandum rejecting the political agreement between coup leader al-Burhan and Hamdok.
The RCs now raise the slogan: “No partnership, No negotiation, No bargaining” with the military.
Through a process known as the Charter for the Establishment of the People’s Authority the Coordination of Resistance Committees launched a nationwide community consultation on February 27, to establish a comprehensive program for government in which the military is to play no role.
This process aims to ensure there is no return to the conditions that prevailed before October 25, including partnerships with military.
The charter’s social content is explicitly stated in an “economic vision based on the development economy in a way that alleviates the suffering of citizens and addresses economic distress”.
This is in contrast to the economic practices of the previous government, which gave priority to repaying debt at the expense of development and adopted foreign aid to address the country’s budget deficit.