By: Dr Amro M.
Translated to English by N.A.
Sudan’s revolts are entering a transitional period from being a core student movement to a mass revolt as a fourth revolution of Sudan’s contemporary history (after the 1924 Revolt, October and April). All these movements and previous revolutions were of limited effectiveness in achieving their slogans; each of these movements led to a worse political situation than the one before it. The Sudanese revolutions and uprisings had certain common features that affected their results and outputs greatly. Even though the way each started was different, they all had a similar scenario towards the end: Ordinary citizens pour onto the streets and announce a collective political strike. In the meantime, lower rank officers and soldiers mobilize and pressure the leadership in support of the collective political strike. When the government is successfully overthrown, people return to their homes and leave their affairs in the hands of the “institutional front” in October 1964, the Transitional Military Council and the “National Coalition for the Salvation of the Country” 1985.
Firstly: Sudanese revolts were extremely short-lived. In October 1964, the revolution lasted about one week from 21 to 28 October. The March-April Uprising of 1985, Omdurman Islamic University Student Protests started on Tuesday 26th of March and the political strike took place on the morning of Tuesday April 4th. The armed forces then executed a place coup on April 6th. The short-life of revolutions, lack of unified vision on the part of revolutionary movements with respect to defined demands, in addition to the delay in constituting leadership institutions (a revolution leadership based on political parties and unions was constituted on Friday April 5th and a memorandum of understanding of the National Coalition for the Salvation of the Country was signed. The hastiness with which the government was constituted in the absence of the clear vision of experts from the middle classes, detailed road maps and a disciplined schedule to achieve goals, resulted in leaving us with a distorted political edifice of governance without agenda (the Naivasha agreement avoided theses slips and was able to put in place a detailed road plan and a disciplined schedule to split the country into two parts)
Secondly: The movements that played a significant role in Sudanese revolts are the civil organized movements especially those in the Capital and the other parts of the country have only a marginal effect. These movements are mainly made up of middle-class elites and organized labour unions, which span a very limited number of the population. Even though these movements were capable of leading and affecting the revolutions, they failed to bring other groups into the active political scene. This led to increased demands on part of the marginalized and under-privileged groups which were left in wait for the approval of the demands of the civil movements.
Thirdly: When city populations finish with protests and go back to their slumber, an elite group (the institutional front in October 1964 and the National Colaliton for the Salvation of the Country in 1985) remains in charge of all the negotiations, deals and differences in closed places (The Labour Club in October and the Engineers Society in April) away from the revolutionaries themselves. Even when the revolutionary gains are hampered and delayed none of those responsible for the revolts were called upon to pressure the conservative movements. Rather a return to political back-stages occur.
The movements that made the Arab Spring possible are civil movements in the capital, rural areas or other cities, but they were able to drag all the sectors in the country with them. The scene of protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen and Libya meant that the revolutions were owned by the people in actuality. These movements which were initially comprised of the middle class elites and the organized labour movements, these two categories forming a considerable and effective number, were able to reach all the people.
The scene in Sudan is inherently different, because even though the civil movement, whether in the capital or rural areas, has a vital role in securing revolutionary victory if escalated, there are new currents in the political space after the cessation of the South. This encouraged other marginalized groups to unite in the Revolutionary Coalition of Darfur Fighters (SLA Minni Minawi, SLA Abdel Wahid and JEM) and those in South Kordofan and Blue Nile (SPLM-North) in Kouda in Nuba Mountains between 8/1/2011 to 7/8/2011. The consensus so far is on one nation state within which different groups can coexist, but calls for voluntary unity for all parts of the country. A number of parties are working towards a comprehensive transformation, including those influenced by the Arab Spring, the political parties in their different formats, marginalized fighting groups and parties and even El Sheikh Hassan El Turabi and his party. The Millions that came out on the streets and Arab squares chanting that “the people want to overthrow the government” are the makers of the revolutions.
Previous Sudanese revolts, the experience of the National Democratic Coalition and the Naivasha Agreement, as well as the Arab Revolutions, point to the conclusion that the main issue is the absence of a comprehensive national program that is capable of reshaping life in our countries. More important than this is the political will to execute such a program. Those who observe the Arab Revolutions regard them as lacking such a program and ask what the use of sacrifice is if it will be wasted on parties and their internal divisions. The author does not believe that it is his mission to propose such a comprehensive national program. This should be determined by those demanding change.
The Scenario of Regime Change from inside will not work, and has not during the period of 22 years yielded anything. And all the negotiations aimed at breaking the unity of opposition groups and at attracting some parties to work with the National Congress Party (NCP). If any par wants the NCP to respond with what resembles the dismantling of the racist state in South Africa, it has to mobilize its mass pressure tools. Memorandums, announcements of political positions and mass conferences are not useful. The regime has determined its exit options: the gun as has been used with the SPLM or broad mass revolts. What is required is Regime Change.
Diverse and long-lasting expertise in revolutionary movements accumulated, whether the history of Sudanese people who affected two great revolutions in Sudan’s contemporary history, or in the surrounding region. However, a number of issues have to be taken into consideration when dealing with these genuine and noble movements.
Firstly: Our experiences were very successful in overthrowing regimes whether by mass revolts as in October 1964 or partial uprisings in April 1985. These great revolutions did not lead to tangible results; all the issues that were the subject matter of the slogans were not achieved and lived only in song and anthems. Whichever of their achievements we consider, is in the final analysis catastrophic, leading us from one bad regime to a worse one. This will be one of the challenges to youth movements and its parties.
Secondly: The previous revolts had tools that facilitated their execution, of which the most significance is the unions, which controlled the country’s economy (the Labour and Farmers Unions) and the societies. In addition to the limited size of civil movements and an un-politicized civil service, national police and army and the fact that all the political parties united as an opposition and a civil war in the South with discernible features. This is the second challenge concerning achieving change using different tools.
Nevertheless, what is going on the ground since 17 June 2012 –Sudan Revolts_ points that the current situation is uncomplicated in that most of the sectors and constituents of the Sudanese people reached a state of total rejection when it comes to the regime. There is also a general and an extraordinary anger that is reflected in daily confrontations in different parts of the country, which is also aired in the media and that includes organizations and civil and local groups and the like. This reveals an incompetent leadership incapable of governing using brutal force instead.
The National Congress
The NCP came about as a result of fractures within the Islamist movement; the party is what remained of the President’s supporters. Thereafter, it became the ruling party and because the majority of its members sided with the President, it resembled the National Democratic Party of Egypt, the previous Socialist Union and Tahrir party. Despite the mass joining of the majority of political cadres, the Mayoists and the liberal sectarian parties to the President’s party, most thinkers and intellectuals kept their distance.
During more than a decade in power, the ruling party being a one-man show as transformed into a vacuous part without thought, knowledge, inspiration or imagination and with a long history of corruption, repression, poverty, mismanagement of the country and an unenlightened leadership, in addition to stifling regional and international isolation. To add to this, the party whose leaders claim to have gained 95% of votes in the National Assembly is the Sudanese copy of the Egyptian People’s Assembly. And the three million party members in Egypt ended up as a handful of horse and camel riders. The fate of this party will be similar to the Sudanese Socialist Union, the National Democratic Party of Egypt, the Democratic Constitutional Coalition in Tunisia, the Ruling General National Party in Yemen and the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party; a historical symbol of a time of misery and sadness to its people.
Exit Options for the Regime
Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his novels the General and His Labyrinth and the Autumn of the Patriarch demonstrates the fate of former presidents. In the beginning, they hold the ideal visions for reform, modesty and simplicity. Then they turn into icons controlled by a forever-hungry elite. The problem this has never been Bashir’s case since he was a prisoner to the vision of an organization intent on using the Shock and Awe Terror treatment from the American military theory which dictates dealing very strong and debilitating sudden blows to the enemy to push them to surrender quickly. This worked during the Iraq invasion. The Sudanese people were baffled for a long period of time because of a value construct which undermined all its traditional concepts that are good, conciliatory and simple. However, it has courageously risen and forced the regime to reconsider.
The Sudanese model is a mixture of a number of scenarios and is informed by the assumption that the regime is carefully regarding the Arab Spring and its outcome. Perhaps the Regime assumes that the wave of events will not catch up to it, or perhaps that the revolts are in favour of Islamic parties…etc. This mdel’s elements are demonstrated in a number of scenario which were witnessed by Sudan. The peaceful path like that of Tunisia and Egypt occurred in October 1964, but the uprising went all the way and found an established institutional platform which it transformed into a democratic one. The peaceful path as it uprooted the military regime, transformed it into an oppressive bureaucracy in its exclusionary secular format just like in Tunisia and Egypt, and the Transitional Military Council was formed followed by a civilian transitional government in 1985.
The Regime will try to crack down on protests using violence. One must not discard the possibility of its enlisting the help of its allies in the world. It already backed down the price increases, which were not approved by the National Assembly, as well as removing popular figures, but the revolutionaries, refused all this and are in the streets till downfall. Talk now is of a palace coup of different scenarios from the army siding with the people as was the case in 1985, as well as the drama of president arrest and some other soothing measures.
There will be scenes of breakdowns of police and security factions, some of which will be real and some fabricated to infiltrate groups. The way to abort the Regime’s plans is the unity of revolutionaries and driving confrontations all the way. The Sudanese army remains the emergency insurance for the Regime and also the people. It can be utilized to confront the masses of its leaders consented. This scenario faces two difficulties: (i) soldiers may decline and internal conflicts may occur, and (ii) (which is more dangerous to the Regime) this may lead the armed groups to intervene.
One other scenario is as has been reported in Alshroog newspaper of Saudia Arabia that some changes including the removal of the president and some key figures and guarantees of not being handed over to ICC. This might be a bargain by some countries in the region as has been with Nimeri and his asylum in Egypt,. The only hindrance is the ICCV accusation. Whatever scenario it is, it remains dangerous and hurdle some, taking us back t square one. What is required is the overthrow of the Regime in its entirety.
Scenarios for the Revolutionaries:
The rebelling masses are intent on getting rid of the Regime forever and will not be appeased by superficial changes and half-way solutions of a Revolution Memorandum and a Constitution of a Transitional Government…etc. The Sudanese Revolts are a partnership between a numbers of forces, some of which are city-based; some are rural, in addition to political parties, Darfur and SPLM-North fighters. All these factions from the beginning should sit in and participate in the future of the governance of Sudan.