The removal of Sudan’s former dictator, Omar al-Bashir, on 11 April did not spell the end of the Sudanese Revolution. On the contrary, far from meeting the main demands of the revolution, the army power grab is an attempt to disorientate the masses and steal their accomplishment. However, the masses are not letting go of their hard-earned victory that easily.
On 11 April, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) – a self-appointed council of the tops of armed forces and security services – declared that it was removing former president Omar Al-Bashir and assuming power itself, naming Bashir’s previous First Vice-President, Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, as interim head of state.
However, the masses immediately saw through the deception of the military and poured into the streets, breaking the new curfew announced by the army, demanding that it step back and that Ibn Auf be removed. This pressure, and in particular the strong links of fraternity between the movement and the lower ranks of the army, forced the TMC to remove Ibn Auf within 24 hours of appointing him – making him the second head of state to fall within three days – and replaced him with Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
“We are here to remove the entire system”
Following the power grab by the army, mass protests have continued unabated, with the focal point of the movement becoming the Ministry of Defence in Khartoum. The demands are clear: a civilian democratic government, the immediate withdrawal of the army, immediate arrest and prosecution of former regime tops who have brutalised the masses for years and social justice by ending austerity measures dictated by the World Bank and IMF. These, and in particular an attempt to end fuel and wheat subsidies, were the initial spark of the movement, igniting the pent-up anger at the regime systematically robbing and exploiting the masses.
These developments further highlight the difference between this and prior movements within Sudan. In the past, they were led by the middle-classes of the capital. However, this movement has seen the collective mobilisation of the urban and rural poor, spreading to 15 out of the 18 states, all demanding a radical change to the political system.
As one protester talking with AFP said:
“We are here to remove the entire system, a system that does not give service equally to the people. A system that leave[s] people under poverty. A system that does not allow Sudan, as a rich country with human and natural resources, to act as any other country in the world.”
While the army has formally declared itself as the interim government, there is no doubt that power lies in the streets. Opheera McDoom, a former Reuters reporter, gave a description of the mood which warrants to be quoted at length:
Just to give those of you outside the country an idea of the atmosphere on the ground:
Sudan now: Governing without a government
As you walk into the area of Khartoum now completely controlled by the young ‘revolutionaries’ downtown, you see the difference.
Street outside: full of rubbish with plastic bags strewn across the roads.
Street inside: clean of rubbish – bags to put your garbage placed strategically around and young men with long hair and skinny jeans roaming around, picking up trash and encouraging others to help.
Overnight as the crowds thin out, they wash the roads in teams.
People arranging prayer areas and ensuring privacy to do so.
Volunteers organising checkpoints every few metres to ensure no one gets through with weapons. Women search women and men search men.
“We apologise for the search brothers and sisters. This is for your own safety and your brother’s safety” is the refrain repeated to anyone moving through.
A pharmacy run by young volunteer pharmacists to dispense medication to those who need it. Medicine provided by companies and individuals for free.
Two blood donation trucks to ensure those injured in the protests obtain the blood they need.
People collecting cash contributions and bags of money left at the side of the road for anyone to take if they need money to get home.
Shifts organised – the ‘day revolutionaries’ go home at night after the ‘night revolutionaries’ arrive to take over.
Tents set up and run by volunteers to arrange cash, water and food donations.
Traditional Sudanese hospitality not forgotten – anyone visiting MUST drink tea or water.
No cars allowed in unless you’re bringing donations – water, drinks, food. No exceptions or ‘mujamala’ even for foreign diplomats – the U.S. Charge D’Affaires was stopped outside when he came to visit.
Street children being fed and looked after – included in this new society.
Group parties on every corner singing nationalist Sudanese songs and performing traditional dances.
Security? Taken care of. Makeshift blockades of bricks and borrowed razor wire block the roads to stop any attacks at night after a few failed but violent attempts to forcibly disperse the sit-in.
Missing the football? Supporters sent a huge screen to watch the last big Barcelona match.
The roads in Sudan are normally chaotic and, during a black out, the traffic police (if they appear), can hinder more than they help.
But the roads leading to the army HQ have been taken over by the people who are happily directing huge volumes of traffic and hundreds of parked cars
Children are given flags and biscuits, carried on shoulders so they can see above the throngs of people. Birthday parties, weddings – you name it, it’s happening right there in the street.
Christian Sudanese Coptics holding fabric shades over the heads of their Muslim brothers while they pray under the hot sun.
Without any ‘leaders’ whatsoever, these young Sudanese managed to effectively run this sit-in, this mini ‘state’ within the capital, and do so politely, without infighting, ego or provocation.
Instead humour, cooperation, unity and solidarity are the order of the day.
The Sudanese people have a long and proud history of peaceful change.”
The above quote provides a taste of the infinite creativity and resources of the working masses, who are far more equipped at running society than the leeching elements who have been in power for decades.
The TMC announced a series of decisions, including: new heads of the army and the police, a new head of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), committees to fight corruption and investigate the former ruling party, the lifting of all media restrictions and censorship, the release of police and security officers detained for supporting protesters, a review of diplomatic missions, and the dismissal of Sudan's ambassadors to the US and to the UN in Geneva.
The downfall of two heads of state has given the revolution a huge boost of confidence in its own powers. The masses realise that they brought down Bashir and Ibn Auf. Every day they are growing more confident in their own abilities. The TMC is desperately trying to undermine this process and perpetuating the myth that, without the ruling class (and its state institutions), chaos would ensue.
Of course, the reality is the exact opposite, as we can see from the above report from the ground. With the announcement of the aforementioned concessions, the TMC is trying to give the impression that these demands have been granted by the TMC itself. They are trying to distort the fact that all of the freedoms which the Sudanese masses have today, they have attained by their own determined struggle, facing the opposition of all layers of the ruling class.
At the same time, the TMC is trying to appear to be on the side of the revolution. The enormous power of the revolution, which has thoroughly infected the lower ranks of the army, meant that the top brass (in spite of all attempts) was unable to take on the revolution. Just as in Algeria, they decided that it would be better to take the initiative, give a series of minor concessions from above, and thereby stop a revolution from below taking down the whole regime, and with it, the privileged position of the ruling class, to which the tops of the military and security services belong.
After assuming the role of head of state, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has been very vocal, adopting bold rhetoric, and promising to carry out the will of the people, purge the state of former regime officials and enact the will of the revolution in general. Yet, at the same time no concrete, high-level arrests have been reported.
No one knows the whereabouts of Bashir, and the TMC is refusing point blank to hand him over to the ICC or any other body. No plans have been made for his extradition either. Meanwhile, there are strong indications that it is negotiating with other African countries to facilitate his exile.
Salah Gosh, the hated former head of intelligence, was also allowed to resign instead of being arrested for war crimes. The same goes for the country's public prosecutor, and the head of the state-run radio and television broadcasters. Along with members of Bashir’s NCP, all of these have been seen walking around freely with no one bothering them and no warrants for their arrest. The demand from the streets is for the dismantling of the NCP and the arrest and trial of the whole Bashir regime. Clearly, Burhan and the TMC have no intention of doing any of this.
Meanwhile, many political prisoners, in particular Darfuris, remain behind bars. In the early stages of the revolution, Bashir attempted to blame the Darfuri for the uprising, but the people replied by chanting slogans such as “we are all Darfuri!”
As Marx explained long ago, the state apparatus, the tops of the bureaucracy and the army are nothing but forces to defend and preserve the position of the ruling class. The TMC is itself full of members of the former regime, tied by a thousand threads to the elite, the capitalists, the landlords and the Bashir regime. While it is itself riven with internal factions and contradictions, it is clear that it is united in its determination to preserve the core of Sudanese capitalism and landlordism.
Masses learn from experience
All of this is becoming apparent to the masses, who are learning from events at lightning speed. The streets are highly suspicious of the TMC and see through al-Burhan’s demagogy. He was himself a top officer, involved in the barbaric Saudi war on Yemen and in Bashir’s brutal civil war in Darfur. Yesterday, while al-Burhan was walking around posing as a revolutionary, military forces tried to remove barricades around the Ministry of Defence. This was only stopped by a call from the Sudan Professionals Association, the organisation which has been leading the protests, to mobilise and defend the sit in. With many soldiers on the side of revolution openly fraternising with the protesters, the army top brass withdrew immediately.
It is clear for all to see that the TMC is manoeuvring against the revolution. By its so-called concessions and statements, it is attempting to throw dust in the eyes of the masses in order to buy time to regroup and strike back. Arrogantly, al-Burhan has stated that he will grant the people of Sudan a transitional period “of no more than two years”. This is exactly what it appears to be: a gigantic fraud designed to give the counter-revolution time to regain control of the situation.
On Sunday, it was revealed that there had been secret meetings of the SPA and the TMC. This sent shock-waves throughout the masses who were indignant at the SPA leaders for negotiating with the counter-revolution. Who elected the delegates? Who decided the agenda? The whole process was shrouded in secrecy. The masses do not want to replace one unelected regime with another. While the SPA leadership was highly regarded, this has made a significant dent in its authority.
The SPA has condemned the military, and has been calling for a civilian government, the dismantling of Bashir's National Congress Party, the dissolution of the NCP militias and security apparatus, the sacking of judiciary chiefs and the general prosecutor, the removal of the TMC, and other similar demands which would lead to the dismantling of the previous regime.
These are all very good demands, which should be implemented immediately. But the mistake that the SPA is making is to trust the TMC, composed solely of the most reactionary fossils of the old regime, to carry this out. In fact, in the statement of the organisation after it came out of the negotiations with the TMC, it declared that it wants to appoint a transitional civilian government, which would govern the country for “four years (!) under the protection of the Armed Forces.”
But this is diametrically opposed to the spirit of the revolution, which demands democracy and accountability. Who will appoint this government? And why are four years needed before democratic elections can be held? Furthermore, what does “under the protection of the army” mean? Under the protection of the same people who have been oppressing and slaughtering the Sudanese workers, peasants and poor for decades? Under the protection of the same people who just weeks ago were violently attacking the revolution?
The Sudanese masses have shown again and again that they do not need any protectors. As opposed to the regime, including the army, the masses are far better-equipped to run a society free of bloodshed and oppression. In fact, the statement of the SPA falls in line with the position of the army and al-Burhan, who have claimed that they do not want to be a part of a government. They merely reserve the right to claim the Ministries of Defence and the Interior. That is to say, the two positions that are crucial for maintaining of the oppressive apparatus would remain in the hands of the regime with no democratic oversight. In effect, this is nothing but a blueprint for a thinly veiled civilian-military dictatorship. It is no wonder that governments around the world, including Bashir allies such as the reactionary Egyptian military dictatorship and the Gulf states, have been throwing their support behind the army.
The SPA leaders are now in danger of falling into the trap that the Tamarrod movement leaders in Egypt fell into in 2013. After having overthrown the Morsi regime, Tamarrod effectively had power in its hands. But not knowing what to do with it, the movement handed power to Sisi and the SCAF, who in turn did not hesitate, with partial success, in trying to crush the popular movement.
It is clear that the Sudanese masses have learned from this and the streets fully understand there can be no trust in the army or any other pillar of the old regime. The whole of the state apparatus is infested by the rot of the old regime. They will never carry out the wishes of the revolution. Camping outside the Ministry of Defence, while it may terrify the army tops, forcing them to manoeuvre rather than to take the revolution head on, will not change their fundamental interests, which are opposed to those of the masses.
There is no need to wait for anyone else to carry out the wishes of the revolution. The masses have shown that they are fully capable of changing society themselves.
In the organising committees of the protests, the strikes, the neighbourhood watches, the sit-in steward teams, we see the embryos of the institutions which the masses need to enforce their will.
The SPA has declared that it is not a political organisation and will not participate in politics. But isn’t leading a revolution the most political of all acts? Instead of withdrawing and handing power to the army, SPA leaders should organise committees and councils to be elected in every workplace, school, barracks, neighbourhood and village where the revolution is present. These should then be connected on a regional and national level and should organise the election of an all-powerful constituent assembly to implement the will of the revolutionary masses. There is no reason to wait for the old regime to grant the masses their rights, they must take them themselves before the counter-revolution has time to prepare a counter-attack.
Down with capitalism!
At the same time, measures must be taken to address the acute social problems of the masses. While the elite has been living lavishly off the exploitation of the masses and the plundering of the natural wealth of the country, the conditions on the ground are desperate. Recent figures are sketchy, but it was reported in 2009 that 46 percent of the population lived below the national poverty line, over 70 percent earned less than the equivalent of US$5 a day, and 17 percent survive on less than US$1 per day. Over 5 million people face food insecurity or are in danger of starvation, and 32 percent of Sudanese children are malnourished. Moreover, 20 percent of Sudanese men and 40 percent of women are illiterate. On top of that, only 5 percent of the national budget goes into healthcare, compared to 70 percent that goes into the military. The health sector has been long undermined purposefully by the inflated spending on the military establishment and security for the protection of the regime. The monthly salary for doctors is on average around 45 pounds, which isn’t even enough to scrape by. These conditions have drawn such nominally petty-bourgeois layers into the popular struggle.
The only way to address these problems is to immediately organise for the working class to take over the mines, factories, and oil installations, along with the occupation of the land by the poor farmers and peasants. By pooling these resources into a nationalised planned economy run on democratic lines, and by channelling the profits into investments for the modernisation of society and improvement of living standards, all of the above problems could be easily solved.
In a matter of a few months, the revolutionary Sudanese masses have managed to overcome enormous obstacles and have proven to be all-powerful in the face of any opposition. With no real preparation or plan, they have brought the vicious dictatorship to its knees. The same people who ruled with arrogance and impunity before, are forced to bow to the masses. In fact, the masses could take power anytime, but they are not organised enough and lack the programme to do this.
Meanwhile, military generals, and domestic and foreign diplomats are manoeuvring in the corridors of the ministries and embassies, and in the West, to steal the victory from the hands of the masses; to divide, disorientate and deceive the revolution in order to prepare for its undoing. The revolution should not place any trust in these people. It can only rely on its own powers, which have carried it through at every turn of events. It must tear down the whole edifice of the rotten Bashir regime and replace it with a state run by the workers, peasants and poor. Most importantly, it must dismantle Sudanese capitalism, which has brought nothing but never-ending misery and poverty to the proud peoples of the country.
No trust in the generals!
Down with the Transitional Military Council!
The immediate arrest of Bashir and all of the criminals of his regime!
The dissolution of the NCP along with its forces of repression!
Committees on local regional and national levels to take power!
For the immediate calling of a constituent assembly organised by the unions and revolutionary committees!
Down with Sudanese capitalism!
For a socialist revolution in Sudan and beyond!