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After the coup in Sudan

Sudanese March Yet Again, Demanding Full-Fledged Civilian Rule

Thursday 18 November 2021, by siawi3


Friday 12 November 2021

After the coup in Sudan

Joseph Daher

Mass struggle for revolution

One month after the first attempted coup, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the Transitional Military Council (TMC), announced on October 25 a state of emergency, the dissolution of the transitional authorities, and the dismissal of regional governors with the clear objective of ending the revolutionary process in Sudan. The TMC, with its local, regional, and international backers, are attempting to put an end to Sudan’s revolutionary process.

All-out Repression

General al-Burhan justified these measures, which are tantamount to a coup d’état, by pointing to the economic crisis, the need to “rectify the course of the transition,” and the preservation of the country from the risk of “civil war.” He added that the army would guarantee the establishment of a new government composed of “competent personalities” representing all political parties, until elections are held in July 2023.

Following the announcement of the coup, army soldiers rounded up Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, most of his ministers, and the civilian members of the military-led Transitional Council. In addition to arresting many civilian officials, the armed forces, seeking to muzzle any opposition to the coup, arrested political figures, activists, and demonstrators. As for the media, soldiers stormed the official news agency SUNA and the state television station, whose director, a supporter of civilian rule, was dismissed.

For several months, tensions between civilians and the military have only increased as the deadline set by the government of Abdalla Hamdok for the handover of the leadership of the Sovereignty Council from General al-Burhan to a civilian has approached. For the armed forces, the outcome of the transitional process would challenge their political and economic domination of the country.

The generals of the military and security services have broad control over key economic sectors in the country, running a network of companies with billions of dollars in assets. These military enterprises are involved in the production and sale of gold and other minerals, marble, leather, cattle, and gum arabic.

They are also involved in import trade – including control of 60 percent of the wheat market – telecommunications, banking, water supply, contracting, construction, real estate development, aviation, transportation, tourist facilities, and the manufacture of household appliances, pipes, pharmaceuticals, detergents, and textiles. An agreement was reached in March 2021 between the government and the armed forces for a gradual divestment of the army from the economic field and transfer of military companies to civilian state authorities, but no steps in this direction have taken place in the face of the army’s refusal.

The government had also taken steps to recover public assets seized by former senior officials. A committee established under the transitional charter to recover looted funds announced in April 2020 that it had taken back into public hands 20 million square meters of residential land, more than one million acres of agricultural land, and dozens of businesses from officials with close ties to former dictator Omar al-Bashir. All of this is very limited compared to the massive resources of the country’s military, security services, and militias.

In addition, many civilian leaders have not hesitated to publicly call for investigations into human rights abuses and large-scale corruption during the Bashir era, in which General al-Burhan and other members of the military, security, and militia forces played a central role.

Mistaken Strategies and Divisions in the Civilian Camp

The coup also comes at a time of continued weakening of the main civilian force within the transitional council, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition, which has disappointed the popular classes and their organizations. The FFC alliance has suffered increasing divisions since 2019 with some of its leaders even joining the pro-army camp following the coup.

The FFC leadership marginalized other currents that opposed dialogue with the army. Many sectors of the popular movement have criticized the coalition for seeking a modus vivendi with the armed forces rather than accelerating a real democratic transition and the removal of the military from political power. They have also opposed the FFC’s decision to delay the creation of a Transitional Legislative Council by more than two years.

The levers of political and economic power remain largely in the hands of members of the military and security establishment. The Prime Minister himself acknowledged in August 2021 that 80 percent of the companies controlled by the military were “outside the jurisdiction” of the Ministry of Finance and the civilian government.

This is in addition to the continued dominance of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), paramilitary militias led by TMC vice-president Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who has been responsible for numerous war crimes in Darfur and massacres of protesters. Drawing on his strong tribal base in Darfur and his close alliance with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, he projects himself into a prominent foreign policy role and is seen by some in Sudan as the country’s de facto strongman and president.

There is also dissension and rivalry between the RSF and the armed forces led by al-Burhan, although both are united in their efforts to crush the revolution. The RSF also run their own commercial companies, which like the armed forces, have taken advantage of the transition period to expand their economic activities. These two entities reportedly have more than 450 private companies and have also received large sums of money for the participation of their troops to fight alongside forces backed by the UAE and Saudi Arabia in Yemen and Libya.

Similarly, the FFC has been unable to improve the living conditions of the working class, which has deteriorated over the last two years. The Hamdok government had implemented severe austerity policies at the request of the International Monetary Fund, including cuts in subsidies, which have caused considerable suffering for the working and popular classes by sharply increasing the cost of living. Inflation now stands at 400 percent and almost half the population lives below the poverty line.

Regional inequalities are also persistent. For example, the crisis in eastern Sudan, the country’s commercial heartland, witnessed major demonstrations in September to protest social inequalities and lack of investment in the region, and demand for greater autonomy.

The east, which includes the Red Sea, Kassala, and Gadaref states, is a strategic area. It borders Egypt, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, and has 714 kilometers of coastline where the country’s main shipping and oil terminals are located. In addition, it is home to Sudan’s golden mountains, five rivers, more than three and a half million hectares of agricultural land. Despite having all of these geopolitical advantages, the poverty rate is still higher than the national average, exceeding 54 percent, according to official statistics.

Finally, Sudan’s foreign policy following the fall of former dictator Omar al-Bashir has been redesigned by the military, resulting in closer ties with the U.S. As a result, Washington has removed Sudan from its list of terrorist states and pressured the country to normalize relations with Israel.

Sudan’s relationship with Russia has also improved considerably following the signature of a military cooperation agreement in 2019. In November 2020, the two countries inked a 25-year agreement that allows the construction of a new Russian naval base at Port Sudan that would host around 300 Russian troops.

With the backing of Russia and the U.S., the TMC and RSF reached a peace accord with the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a coalition of several armed groups centered in the western Darfur region, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The participation of civilians in these agreements was limited, in part because they themselves left the army to manage the issue alone.

Massive Resistance from Below

Despite the TMC’s brutal repression, which has killed several dozen activists and wounded hundreds more, and shutdown of the internet, the popular classes have responded to the coup with massive resistance from below. Organizations and unions staged huge rallies, marches, and strikes throughout the country. In the capital Khartoum, demonstrators have set up barricades across the avenues to paralyze the country with a campaign of civil disobedience.

The backbone and real engine of this uprising against the coup is the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which unites a variety of workers groups and unions, the Popular Resistance Committees, and many other popular organizations. They worked together to organize mass protests on October 30 that rallied around four million people in nearly 30 cities across the country. Workers have staged strikes that have shut down the banking, transport, oil fields, and most public institutions.

The movement is calling for an immediate end of the coup regime, the transfer of power to civilian rule, and the release of political prisoners. Following the October 30 protests, the SPA has called for mobilization to achieve a list of radical demands:

The overthrow of the military coup;
The trial of the generals of the military and security forces for their crimes;
The transfer of power to a civilian government without negotiation or partnership with the military and security forces and composed of ministers selected by the revolutionary forces fighting for radical change and the objectives of the December revolution (2018);
The liquidation of the National Security Services, the dissolution of the militias, and the constitution of a professional national army with a doctrine based on the protection of people and borders, under the command of the civilian authority;
The transfer of all security, military, and militia companies to the civilian authority and an end to the interference of these entities in economic and investment activities;
Ending the interference of regional and international axes hostile to the Sudanese people and their aspirations in the management of internal affairs and the political process in Sudan.

The Resistance Committees have also issued similar demands. They have called for an end to civilian negotiations and partnership with the military, the conviction of generals for their crimes against the Sudanese people, the termination of the military’s role in the economy, and the replacement of the current regime with a new and sovereign democracy free from foreign intervention.

Between Counter-Revolution and Revolution

The TMC’s coup is backed by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and to a lesser extent Russia. The U.S., other Western powers, the African Union, and international organizations are calling for dialogue and would rather see a return to the interim government’s power-sharing agreement between civilian representatives and the military.

The popular movement, its organizations, and unions oppose both options—the coup and any return to the interim government’s intolerable status quo ante. Instead, they are determined to continue the revolutionary process, win the emancipation of the country’s popular classes, and establish popular democratic control over the whole of Sudanese society.

The TMC will never relinquish power gradually as the FFC has hoped. It was always going to resist such a transition with brutal violence, now on display throughout the country. Only the mobilizations and self-organization of the popular movement will enable the Sudanese popular classes to build a counter-power to overthrow the coup regime.

The fate of the revolutionary process in Sudan will undoubtedly influence similar ones throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Their destinies are linked in a common struggle against the region’s capitalist states. The Left, popular organizations, and unions throughout the world must stand with their struggle and against all regional and imperial intervention to stop Sudan’s revolutionary uprising against the coup.

3 November 2021

Source Tempest



Sudanese March Yet Again, Demanding Full-Fledged Civilian Rule

Pavan Kulkarni

November 14, 2021

November 01, 2021: Sudanese protesters took to the streets in large numbers on Saturday, October 30 against the military coup led by army chief Lt. Gen. Abdelfattah El Burhan.

At least three protesters are confirmed to have been shot dead. An unverified count places the death toll at eight. Scores were injured, many grievously, as the army and the notorious militia called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) opened fire at several marches.

The full scale of the casualties is yet to be known as the internet and telecommunication services remain largely cut off in the country since the coup on October 25.

Prior to the marches on Saturday, 11 protesters were already reported to have been killed and at least 150 injured in the country-wide protests after the coup.

Until Saturday, the majority of the protests were largely held in neighborhoods, behind the barricades raised by the youth. On being confronted, the protesters’ tactic had been to disperse and reassemble to raise new barricades, thus keeping the security forces stretched thin across the country.

On Saturday, however, main roads and highways across Sudan were swarmed by protesters marching in kilometer-long rallies, vastly outnumbering the security forces. Transportation was paralyzed across the country.

In Khartoum State, the bridges over the Nile connecting its three cities – the capital city Khartoum, Khartoum North and Omdurman – were closed by security forces. However, all the three cities witnessed multiple large demonstrations within.

Images and videos emerging from Khartoum alone show main roads of the city – including Al-Sahfa street, East Nile street, Abdullah Al-Tayib street and Sixty street – thronged by mass rallies. Multiple rounds of fire were opened on a rally passing behind the airport (shut since the coup), on its way to Sixty Street.

Casualties, if any in this incident, remain unknown. In Omdurman, three protesters were killed after being shot in the head by snipers, a source told Peoples Dispatch. There are other casualties in Omdruman who have survived bullet injuries.

Outside Khartoum, massive rallies were also witnessed in the States of White Nile, North Kordofan, El Gezira, Kassala, Red Sea, West Darfur, South Darfur etc. Observers have pointed out that these States, which have repeatedly suffered armed tribal violence, had seen the emergence of a civil society mainly as a consequence of the mobilizations for the December Revolution of 2018-19.

The rallies in Darfur region are of particular significance because most of the armed rebel groups here, which claim to represent its marginalized sections, have joined forces with the military after the Juba peace agreement of October 2020 and supported the coup.

The large participation in the actions here indicates the decreasing clout of these armed groups and increasing acceptance of the leadership of the civilian revolutionary forces.

The country-wide action on Saturday “is not a passing cloud… Crowds and revolutionary forces will not retreat from peaceful resistance, occupation of the streets, public political strike and comprehensive civil disobedience will continue,” said the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA).

The SPA is a trade union coalition affiliated to the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), which along with the Resistance Committees organized locally in neighborhoods, had spearheaded the December Revolution. This mass uprising forced the army to remove the former dictator Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. Demanding transfer of state power to civilian authority, the revolutionary forces had continued to struggle against the military junta which had subsequently assumed power.

However, after the massacre of protesters by the RSF outside the army HQ in Khartoum on June 3, 2019, the centrist and right-wing parties in the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) – a coalition of political parties and grassroots organizations formed to represent the December Revolution – struck a deal with the military.

Full civilian rule is the demand

This resulted in the formation of the now-dissolved transitional government in August 2019, in which power was shared between civilian leaders chosen by these parties and the military generals who held top positions under Bashir’s regime.

Protesting this power-sharing arrangement, the revolutionary forces, which stuck to their demands for full civilian rule, withdrew from the FFC. But they had continued to support the coalition from outside by mobilizing its mass following on the streets, hoping to strengthen the hand of the government’s civilian leaders in dealing with the military.

However, with the latter controlling the defense policy, foreign policy, internal security and most of the economy, the civilian leaders wielded little real power to solve the deep economic and security crisis the country has been reeling under for decades.

The limited power of the civilian forces in the government was further undermined by the Juba peace agreement. This agreement states that in case of a contradiction, it overrides the constitutional document in which the power-sharing between the FFC and the military was outlined.

The agreement thus ended up facilitating a deal where the armed forces won over the rebel groups by offering a share in state power. This was done in a manner that ate into the power-share promised to the FFC in the constitutional agreement.

Most of the Juba signatory rebel groups went on to form a separate coalition which, with the backing of the security forces, had begun demonstrations calling on the army to carry out a coup and dissolve the government to rid it of the civilian sections chosen by FFC.

In the meantime, it became clear to increasing sections of the masses that little hope could be placed on the FFC to face up to the armed forces within the confines of the transitional government. The revolutionary forces declared that they no longer supported this government, and would confront the military directly through street actions for full civilian rule.

Only days before the coup, on October 21, a ‘March of Millions’ was held. Slogans against the compromise and partnership between civilian political parties and the military resounded on the streets of Sudan.

The protest movement after the coup has continued with this slogan. Meanwhile, the ministers in the ousted transitional government chosen by the FFC acknowledged in a statement on Saturday that the revolutionary forces had rejected the power-sharing arrangement with the military. However, the statement added, the FFC had accepted such an arrangement hoping to reduce bloodshed and to prepare for a “transition towards democracy and complete civil rule.”

The SCP’s position at the time that compromises with the military, which cannot be trusted to act in good faith, will not lead to a transition to civil rule now stands vindicated. The revolutionary forces, which had held an unwavering position vis-a-vis the military, command the majority on the streets today.

Yet, after the coup, both media coverage and the response of key powers seems to have failed to capture this radical rejection of any alliance with the military. Instead they have chosen to focus on less expansive demands. For instance, various organizations have reported that a key demand of the protesters has been the restoration of the transitional government in which the military was the dominant player. This is even as the streets have explicitly rejected this option. For instance, the SPA has insisted that the struggle is neither for the release of the arrested ministers nor even for the restoration of the transitional government. The SPA has pointed out that this will not be accepted as an alternative to full civilian rule.

On October 28, the UN Security Council went on to call on “all stakeholders to engage in dialogue without pre-conditions.” US president Joe Biden also said the “Sudanese people must be allowed to.. restore the transitional government.” Biden further elaborated that the restoration of the “institutions associated with the transitional government” should be done “in accordance with the constitutional announcement of 2019 and the Juba Peace Agreement 2020.” glossing over the above-indicated inherent incompatibility of the two documents.

Meanwhile, the SPA, in a statement on October 30, gave a call for the overthrow of military rule through an intensification of political strike and civil disobedience.

It has set as an immediate goal the formation of a new fully civilian government, composed of representatives chosen by the revolutionary forces, and tasked with arresting and putting on trial the now ruling military generals accused of committing crimes against Sudanese people.

Other radical tasks to be entrusted to the revolutionary government include: reforming the security sector; taking control of the vast portion of Sudan’s economy currently owned by the military; dissolution of state-backed militias and armed rebel groups and their integration into a single professional national armed force; and reorientation of the foreign policy away from the participation of Sudanese forces in western backed military interventions led by Gulf neighbors.

“With the Western and Gulf powers controlling most large media houses, they are bound to censor the radical content of the December Revolution,” a protester from SCP had earlier remarked to Peoples Dispatch. He added, however, that “they may control the media. But we control the streets here”.