The Sudanese Revolution And Potential Threats That Lie Ahead
For a week now, Sudanese people have been rising up since a revolutionary wave was initiated in the historic city of Atbara, known for a legacy of strong trade union activity, militant anti-colonial resistance, and revolutionary struggle. Indeed, Sudanese people have risen up in at least 5 cities, against austerity measures and cuts to bread subsidies, which have left people starving, bakeries empty, and the Sudanese peoples unable to secure their next meals.
The situation is dire, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network has predicted a country-wide crisis, wherein 2019, Food prices which are already at 150-200 percent above average, will increase to 200-250 percent. A famine is predicted to occur across the country, hitting North Darfur, Jebel Marra, Red Sea, and parts of West Kordofan, North Kordofan, South Kordofan, and the Blue Nile before extending into the capital.
But for many the crisis has already come.
In a country where 75% of the annual budget is focused on defense — in an effort to maintain an illegitimate regime — the cause of security is the very reason for the regime’s ails. The decision by the South to secede, where the oil was located, has meant that Bashir’s government has needed to look elsewhere to prevent his own demise. They seceded due to the intransigence of the ruling elite, and their failure to engage in peace efforts before the South Sudanese elite — themselves having no shared interests with the vast majority of South Sudanese people — decided to forge an independent state to protect themselves from a genocidal system (unfortunately, their independence has only meant the nationalization of their own oppression, and half-a-million have already perished in an unnecessary civil war).
And it seems that the Regime never learns. The government’s continued assaults on Darfur, and the Nuba mountains — with no efforts to establish peace — has led the country to the crisis it faces today. Mismanagement, only provoked by a country which spends more money on defending its security apparatus, than feeding the public, has led to the desperation that many Sudanese people are facing today. When Sudanese people go to the ATM machines, they are empty. When they go to the banks, they are only allowed to withdraw approximately one dollar per day. The price of bread has risen from one Sudanese pound to three, after the government removed bread subsidies in an effort to rescue itself through austerity.
Sudanese people today are demanding the fall of the regime.
The IMF has estimated that Sudan’s unemployment rate is at 20%, the 5th worst in the world, following Greece and Macedonia (whose governments seem to be concerned more with their claims to ancient greek lineage than solving their own crises). But the IMF of course, as Greece can itself tells us, is no innocent, data-collection body. Indeed, they too are among the primary culprits in the latest decisions by the Sudanese government.
The situation is dire, and come in the wake of an IMF visit in July. In 2018 alone, when the IMF has posed its recommendations — rooted apparently in some neoliberal theology — prime-ministers have fallen. This is true of Jordan earlier this year, and it is true of Haiti, which at the time of writing is also embroiled in its own uprising against government mismanagement and kleptocracy. From Haiti to Sudan, people today are rising up and facing the bullets wedded to their respective regimes, whether they are shot from the police, army, or paramilitary loyalist militias. Behind it all lies two culprits: their respective governments and the biggest stabilizing institution of the world: the International Monetary Fund. It was upon the request of the IMF that Sudan initiated it’s latest austerity measures.
In Sudan, it is estimated that over 30 unarmed protesters have already been shot and killed. On Tuesday, the Sudanese Professional Association organized protests in front of the palace, where they were met with live ammunition. Meanwhile, the king of Sudan (Omar Al-Bashir) placed 14 leaders of the National Consensus Force — an opposition coalition — in prison, arguing that it was working alongside Israel (straight out of the Assad playbook for dictators) to destabilize the country.
That the protests began in the peripheries before they took root in the capital is worthy of analysis, for it is the peripheral-capital divide — and the persistent, but unfortunate reality — of uneven development, which has ever so plagued the history of Sudan since its birth as a republic in 1956. It is in fact, also therein where the primary contradiction lies.
In the peripheries, particularly in the Nuba mountains (under the SPLM-N movement), and in Darfur (under the Justice and Equality Movement), armed struggles against the Sudanese government have been ongoing for close to two decades. While they all have their particular concerns, they share a position that the government only focuses on the pre-dominantly self-identified Arab North at the expense of the rest of the country (but indeed, they only focus on filling the pockets of regime loyalists). These armed groups have organized themselves under the Sudan Revolutionary Front. I fear that, if not warded off from approaching Khartoum in a moment of destabilization, and if not effectively courted by the opposition then they could approach the capital, and gift the president with the war-on-terror discourse that can entrench him in power. It is necessary for them to enter into an immediate pact with the opposition. And the opposition much rid itself of chauvinism, and a divisive Islamism, which leaves at least the SPLM-N unwilling to negotiate. The opposition must move away from a Northern-centric approach to the Sudanese crisis and adopts a promise for a comprehensive peace process. Should the opposition and the revolutionary front not enter into a pact, the worst could transpire.
Thus far, no serious efforts have materialized on that front. Theoretically, such a situation could happen with Yassir Saeed Arman — secretary general of the SPLM-N — brought into discussions with his former comrades in the Communist Party. As a man of Northern origin, with decades of experience in revolutionary struggle, and as a visionary with close ties to the Southern Sudanese struggle — he could enter into dialogue with the formal opposition and prevent the deformation, or escalation, of what has up until now been a peaceful revolt against a repressive and murderous regime.
The situation in Sudan is at a crucial moment, and the internal dynamics of the country need to be put into perspective of global geopolitics. Thus far, there remains a civilian uprising, and armed elements on the peripheries who could prematurely advance to the capital. They ought to be brought onto the negotiating table, and to promise not to escalate the conflict. The alternative could be catastrophic.
Although of Sudanese descent, I am no expert, and indeed my own family and extended family have dedicated far more to the struggle than I am (due to the circumstances I’ve grown up in). So I accept in advance any mistakes in my analysis.
Nonetheless, these are my positions thus far.
1) We saw, early on in the Syrian revolution, that the situation deteriorated very quickly in the absence of strong cohesion between the civilian and military wings. Indeed, the military wings of the struggle found themselves in need of allying themselves with foreign, imperialist powers — and in the absence of a unifying ideology, which left open the space for various Islamisms to take root — the country became a battleground for proxy warfare. Meanwhile, the civilian wings of the struggle eventually got co-opted by various armed groups, each under the patronage of competing interests (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, gulf) etc..
2) We saw in Yemen, a different position. Where the post-Arab spring that brought Hadi’s government to power, led to its patronage by Gulf states.
Given the open statement of support by the monarchs of Qatar to Bashir’s government(and probably the various others who support him in secret), it is clear that a situation similar to Yemen could transpire — only, if you will, that the difference would be if the gulf alliance supported Saleh instead. Here, the civilians and armed groups will find themselves outgunned, possibly by the very Saudi Alliance that Bashir supported bysending Sudanese soldiers to the bloodbath in Yemen.
We could very well see, indeed, that Saudi Arabia may compete with Qatar, and eventually buy out Khartoum’s support. This scenario would entail the Gulf states supporting Bashir against his civilian population.
3) It is possible that the opposite occurs, like in Syria. Here, gulf states afraid of Bashir’s overtures to Turkey and Qatar, could conspire to arm further the opposition and turn a civilian movement into a scenario very similar to the Syrian civil war. The Foreign policy of Saudi Arabia could very well go in this direction.
4) Given these three lessons, it is necessary that the armed groups which operate under the Sudan Revolutionary Front (and which includes the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army, as well as the Justice and Equality movement in Darfur, and SPLM-N in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states) enter into an immediate pact with the opposition. All of these groups lie within the peripheries, and so by entering into an alliance with the north — such a move can unify the country. Immediately upon this pact, there should be efforts to ensure that Gulf countries, the United States, and Russia are not to be relied upon for support. This needs reiteration. EXTERNAL INTERVENTION WILL BE THE DEATH OF THE REVOLUTION. Furthermore, the armed groups much declare a moratorium on all armed activity against Sudanese forces until the situation stabilization. This too needs reiteration. DON’T GIVE THE REGIME its convenient war on terror narrative.
5) The opposition parties must do what they can to isolate those bourgeoise parties that have never had the interest of Sudan at heart. These two parties, the Ummah Party, and the Unionist party ought to be engaged in the process due to their bases of support, but they ought never to be put at the forefront. They should be sidelined.
6) This would require, a stronger relationship between Mutamar al Sudan and the Sudanese Communist Party. These two parties should be at the forefront of Sudanese reconstruction.
7) Already, there are frictions within the Sudanese Revolutionary Front concerning the question of Sharia law. In the opposition, the Ummah Party and the Unionist party have an ambivalent attitude towards the applicability of Sharia laws. With the Sudanese Communist Party and the Mutamar al Sudan leading negotiations, a settlement can be made to construct a secular opposition. The country should be brought back to an era before the September laws of 1983 ruined the country. Either this, or the flood continues.
8) Parallel structures of governance should already be in motion, similar to the Social Democratic Party in Russia on the eve of the Bolshevik seizure of power. When already, political parties, are able to “mock” the future in an artificial parliament, they can begin to fill in a power vacuum once the dictatorship falls. These should include members of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front and the opposition. Otherwise, a hand over to the military, similar to what happened in Egypt, will ensure the continuation of the regime, but under a different general.
9) The Army should already be considered on the counter-revolutionary side. That some are kissing them on the heads in celebration, for the small pockets of mutiny that seem to have occurred across the country is a worrying situation. They are merely preparing themselves for Sisi 2.0. Never trust the military.