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Sudan: the revolution isn’t dead; it’s on hibernation

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It was as though, twenty-four years later, the Sudanese people awoke from an apathetic coma. It was refreshing. Everyone joined forces.

Maha Elsanosi
2 September 2012

Despite the fact that protests triggered by anger over austerity measures in Sudan have quieted down since their outbreak in mid-June, the Sudanese street remains furious with the ruling regime and continues to demand democratic change.

When mass anti-austerity protests first broke out in Khartoum over two months ago, they instigated hope; hope for change, freedom and justice… hope for democracy. It was as though, twenty-four years later, the Sudanese people awoke from an apathetic coma. It was refreshing. Everyone joined forces; the youth, women, political party members, underground youth movements, students and various members of the Sudanese community. For a moment in time, it looked like the third Sudanese revolution was going to be a success.

Unfortunately, as the weeks passed by, the “revolutionary-themed Fridays” came to an end. Perhaps, eight weeks into the revolts, protesting became more of a burden. Or perhaps, protesting during the month of Ramadan was an inconvenience for many people. And who knows, perhaps the heavy clampdown launched by the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) terrorized protesters and prompted them to steer clear of mosques and streets and sit protests out. The NISS’ dirty tactics have proven very effective.

Though the protests, having grown steadily and spread their domino effect, have recently become sluggish, the circumstances that catalyzed them remain in place. Harsh austerity measures are still being implemented and economic conditions continue to be dire. Blue Nile and South Kordofan remain zones of NCP-incited war. This puts things into perspective; people will eventually get fed up. Not just fed up in the known sense, but fed up enough to start an uninterrupted revolution. Regime change is inevitable; but the question lies in how this is going to be achieved.

Many opposition party leaders are busy negotiating deals with the government and clamping down on their own members, however. There is great apprehension that once the NCP is overthrown, armed movements will try to take power in Khartoum. This creates a problem; one that has been incessantly overlooked by those organizing protests. The aims of the protests and the armed movements are different. Protesting for human rights and equal treatment is different from fighting for representation; in some cases hugely different.

The security situation in the country complicates matters even further. Though both peaceful protesters and armed rebels may have the same real-time objective of overthrowing the ruling National Congress Party, their post-revolution objectives are in significant disagreement.

Nonetheless, the protests in Sudan are well-founded. They just lack the support of two significant entities: the majority of the people and the major political parties. What history has taught us is that political parties will only display their support for an uprising once the overthrow of the regime has become incontrovertible. That’s no different in Sudan; opposition parties are waiting for the youth and student movements to mobilize enough masses to cause a significant threat to the NCP. Once this is accomplished, they will be ready to swoop in and hijack the revolution. The political scene in the country seems to have been infested with a version of the NCP’s idiosyncratic opportunism, where involvement depends solely on a guaranteed beneficial outcome.

On January 30, 2011, the Sudanese people were so inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions they decided to organize the first mass demonstration led by normal Sudanese citizens in over two decades. One may look at the January 30 protests as one huge failure, but those who can see through the police brutality, mass arrests, torture and abuse are aware of its significance in breaking a massive fear barrier and motivating the Sudanese people to speak out against injustice.

Two things are as important now as they are unavoidable; delivering convincing choices of a democratic alternative for the people of Sudan first; and a new plan for mass mobilization second. Perhaps a little slow off the rail, these revolts will assuredly continue.

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