Behind the popular revolt in Sudan

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal is publishing an interview with journalist and former Sudanese Communist Party activist Rashid Saeed Yagoub along with an article by Sudanese activist and writer Amgad Fareid Eltayeb outlining the current situation and background to the revolt in Sudan. This is followed by a solidarity statement issued by the Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists.

“Overthrow the regime and prepare the future”

January 22, 2019 — International Viewpoint — Rashid Saeed Yagoub is a journalist and former militant of the Sudanese Communist Party. In exile in France since 1992, he is an active member of the networks supporting the ongoing popular uprising in Sudan. Can you summarize the current situation in Sudan? The military-Islamist regime of Al Bashir has been in power since 1989, that is almost 30 years, and is now facing the worst economic crisis in its history. The Sudanese pound has lost most of its value in 6 months. The price of bread has increased from 1 to 3 pounds. There is a general shortage of gasoline, and the country is cut off from the outside world. The Sudanese government is on the verge of bankruptcy and is trying to secure regional allies. There is an economic partnership with China. The essential fact is that there is no more money, the country is on the verge of bankruptcy. Wealth exists, but it is monopolized by a clique linked to the regime. What do you think about the current mobilizations? The regime is facing unprecedented demonstrations. This movement exists in all major cities in the country with the exception of a few conurbations. There are broad social categories mobilized, the impoverished middle class is very present. Many women are participating. It should be noted that these demonstrations are peaceful. The government is responding with excessive use of force. What are the demonstrators’ goals? Mobilization began in response to measures that significantly increased the prices of basic necessities. From the first week, it was totally clear that this was a mainly political uprising, focused on demanding regime change. "The people want the regime to fall" is the unifying slogan. The professional associations, the Sudanese Professionals Association, which independently brings together official pro-regime trade unions, Sudanese professionals, doctors, engineers, etc...... has been the unifying group of this mobilization. The political parties opposed to the regime have also come together around a "Declaration for Freedom and Change". The axes are clear: the overthrow of the regime by peaceful means, and above all, organising the transition to a democratic regime with the right to free expression, freedom of assembly, and putting an end to the concentration of wealth in the hands of an Islamic-autocratic minority. How can these goals be achieved? The calls for general mobilization, initiated by and around the Sudanese Professionals Association, have made it possible to organize massive and regular mobilizations in the workplace and in the neighbourhoods. Spontaneous night demonstrations also take place and are really massive. The regime has blocked Facebook and WhatsApp, but videos are still being broadcast daily by demonstrators, informing the media and the Sudanese diaspora around the world. Rallies in support of the popular uprising have been held in a significant number of countries, but it must be acknowledged that there has been relatively little media coverage and external support. According to professional associations, the overthrow of the regime requires a massive uprising, a strategy of peaceful civil disobedience and the goal of a general strike. There is no support to be expected from the official trade unions controlled by the government, they are content to ask for the legitimacy of the regime to be respected and wait for the 2020 elections. Today these structures are out of the game. What is at the heart of the political debate is the immediate fall of the regime. What is the position of the various Sudanese political parties? The parties opposed to the regime have been participating in the uprising since the beginning, without being in the driving seat. They have joined the collective framework coordinated by the Association of Professionals. Today, there are three main blocs of parties with different strategies. The Sudan Call is a group of a number of organizations that had participated in previous negotiations with the Sudanese government under the aegis of the African Union. It includes the Ummma party of former Prime Minister Sadek al-Mahdi, overthrown in 1989 by the Al-Bashir coup, Malik Agar’s SPLM North, Minni Minawi’s SLM, Gibril Ibrahim’s Justice and Equality Movement, the Sudanese Civil Society Confederation. The Sudan Consensus Force is a group whose fundamental focus is the refusal in principle to negotiate with the regime. It includes the Sudanese Communist Party, Arab and Nasserian nationalist parties. It is a progressive group. Les Unionistes, is a grouping around the Democratic Unionist Party, one of Sudan’s major institutional parties. To this must be added other structures that are, to get to the point, former splits of this Party. The Unionists act for the peaceful overthrow of the regime. A word must also be said about the armed movements that play an important role in conflict areas. The Sudan Liberation Movement of Abdulwahid Al Nur in Darfur, and the Sudan People Liberation Movement in the Nuba Mountains region. These movements also categorically reject negotiations with the regime, and act independently of the political groupings mentioned above. During the first days of the uprising, premises of the Al-Bashir National Congress Party were burnt down. The regime then accused the Sudan Liberation Movement of being at work, allegedly with the complicity of Israeli intelligence. Fortunately, this propaganda did not find a response. The response of the demonstrators was to refuse to let themselves be divided, the slogan on everyone’s lips was "we are all darfuris". Can you describe the strategy of the regime? I would say there are three main axes. First, there is the assertion that the demonstrations are the work of foreigners, that parties and professional associations obey foreign embassies by which we should essentially understand the Western powers. Then there is the assertion that demonstrations can lead the country to chaos, as in Syria and Yemen. The current regime prides itself on providing stability. Finally, the regime is playing on racist discourse. Al-Bashir dares to say "If the regime falls, the darfuris will dominate the country". That means the black populations in Sudan. Arab and Muslim culture is said to be under threat. There is a strong racial and ethnic component centred in this discourse. Fortunately, this kind of talk does not succeed in dividing and demobilizing. This type of propaganda no longer works. A word must be said about the role of the army. With each major popular uprising in Sudan’s history, 1964 and 1985, the army has played an important role in the transition. Today, the army has been completely rebuilt by the regime, it is an ideological and ideologized army. The ex-Janjaweed militias affiliated to the regime, responsible for the genocide in Darfur, were integrated into the armed forces in 2017 under the name of Rapid Support Forces. The army is considered non-independent, composed of some ethnic groups in northern Sudan. The decisive factor is that today the army is no longer able to play a soft transition role within the regime as it once did. What about the current mobilizations in support of the Sudanese people’s mobilization? The Sudanese in exile have mobilized strongly, particularly in France. There have been civil society positions. Unfortunately, for the time being, this has been done in relative isolation from those most affected. Western governments are taking prudent positions, they condemn violence against demonstrators, but no firm positions against the regime. In conclusion, I would say that it is up to Sudanese abroad to meet with democratic organizations and political parties, to broaden support, to act to overthrow the regime and to prepare for the future.

Understanding the Travail of Change in Sudan

By Amgad Fareid Eltayeb January 9, 2019 — Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists — Sudan revolts. Many people have read this short sentence many times in the past few years, but the fact is Sudan never stopped revolting since the coup of June 1989 that brought the ruling National Islamic Front party (later the National Congress Party; NCP) and the current president Omar al-Bashir to power. The political struggle against the dictatorship of Bashir’s Islamic regime has never stopped for a day. The regime continued to use its tyrannical security apparatus to fight it, resulting in fueling the civil war in the south further to end with separation of South Sudan as the only solution, yielding another war in the new South of the northern Sudanese country, and generating a new civil war in the western region of Darfur. These civil wars witnessed the worst types of violence against civilians, that included; the widest use of sexual violence in Darfur, burning and indiscriminate bombing of civilian villages, displacement of millions of Sudanese citizens and a very long list of war crimes that led Bashir to have the honour of infamously being the first sitting president to be wanted by the International Criminal Court. In addition to these war crimes, the urban areas of Sudan saw a wide range of human rights violations. The Gestapo-like National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) became a terrifying political tool of terror used by Bashir’s regime to abduct, indefinitely detain, torture and kill political opponents with huge authority and complete impunity for its agents. Expectedly, this was accompanied with an unprecedented spread of corruption in Sudan in light of the complete absence of the rule of law. Fast forward to 2018, the demonstrators who stormed the streets of different Sudanese cities had a clear sight of the scene. The protests started in Atbra, a city well known for its labour movement history, on December 19. Other cities witnessed protests on the same day including; Qadaref, Nuhod, and Portsudan that was supposed to receive a presidential visit from Bashir on the same day. Protests extended to other cities in the following day; Dongla, Barbar, Sennar, Elobaid, and the capital Khartoum. The third day saw the spread of protests to almost everywhere in Sudan. Protesters were very focused on what and who is the reason behind their suffering. In most of the protesting cities, citizens marched collectively to burn the premises of the ruling National Congress Party. The ruling party’s center were not only symbols of tyranny and dictatorship, but also a kleptocratic symbol of the grand corruption encircling Sudan. The protesters took to the streets, driven by the difficult living conditions and the economic crisis, where the inflation reached 160% with the full collapse of the value of local currency and a sharp rise in the prices of essential necessities exacerbated by the lack of liquidity in banks and market. However, this was merely a symptom of a political crisis of the first order. The corruption in the corridors of the state relates directly and organically to the heads of the state and its extent and size are directly proportionate with the height in the hierarchy of power. The giant cases of grand corruption that significantly influence the Sudanese economy are linked to high-ranking officials who are above the questioning of the law in the lawless state of Sudan. There is a structural deformity in the Sudanese economy that has been inherited since independence, which is seen in its dependence on exportation rather than production, which was exacerbated by the Dutch Disease: “Increasing dependence on the export of one natural resource while neglecting the rest of economic sectors”during the years of oil exportation between 1998 to 2011, and the great shock that hit the Sudanese economy after the independence of the oil-rich South Sudan. But the current economic crisis is different. These economic uncertainties have created money-hungry nacropaths of those have limitless power and authority in Sudan, seeking to collect as much assets and money as possible to protect and maintain their privileges. The current lack of liquidity that was exacerbated significantly by speculations on foreign exchange rates and the storage of currency by the influential people, which was something the Sudanese Prime Minister Moataz Mousa, complained of publicly. It was becoming obvious that the crisis is political in nature. The corruption in the banking sector, fake credit and investment loans that are granted to senior members of the ruling party without adequate guarantees and without productive returns … and other corrupt practices have led to the loss of confidence in the banking system by the citizens. The loss of confidence in the banking system was aggravated by the shortsighted decisions taken by the government to address the problem of liquidity by placing a very small daily withdrawal ceiling from personal bank accounts. Amounts that are not enough to meet the obligations of daily life in light of the rapid rise of prices, provoking people to store money in their homes instead of Banks, aggravating the impact of the liquidity scarcity and the corrupt practices of currency speculation. Untouchable influential people including members of the presidential family (which includes the prime minister himself who is the cousin of the president), senior members of the ruling party and high-ranking government officials use these practices to promote their social status and protect themselves in case of any change in a very fluid political situation. Ignoring the fact that they are worsening their situation and increasing the possibilities of change by aggravating the suffering of the people. This is a typical narcopathic behavior. The anti-corruption tools and slogans have become part of the battle of settling personal accounts among the regime’s masters, and have not reflected in any positive way on the Sudanese economy. This made statements by the new prime minister and his tweets (and Muataz Moussa is fond of the social media platform, Twitter in a Donald-Trumpian style), a ridiculous farce, trying to suggest the possession of economic solutions to a problem that everyone knows is political in nature. On another note, the regime does not help itself by any means by its refractoriness in dealing with the other aspects of the political crisis in Sudan. The ruling National Congress Party continues to manipulate and obstruct all opportunities for political solutions to end the civil war in the three volatile regions of Sudan (Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile) and allow for a minimum openness that can help reduce the political polarization in the country. The ruling NCP is helped by its new status with the international mediators who need the regime to serve their different interests in the region. It is also helped by the weakness of the opposition political forces that, the regime invested in destroying over the years of its rule. Nevertheless, the NCP is digging its own grave with this attitude. These civil wars, political polarization and lack of democratic space keep it a permanent hostage to the bullying of foreign powers who use it to perform the tasks they want, but only support it to the extent that keeps it hostage. Tyrants read from one book that does not teach them a simple lesson; the only guarantor of any ruler is his people, not foreign powers, whatever the degree of his service to them. The National Congress and General Bashir have been in power for 30 years, depending on the strength of their security services and their military militias to stay in power and suppress the opposition movement. They did not hesitate to arm and supply them and to create more diverse militias dedicated to protecting their power. They directed the budgets of health, education and other social services to be spent on what is generally called the sovereign and security sectors. Absurd expenses that consume more than two thirds of the public budget. This reluctance to direct public funds to social service sectors has made the economic crisis even worse on the poorest groups, which now face their fate in a legendary battle with no social protection net or any services from the public sector. Those people are the ones who are taking to the streets now, driven by their will to live. They will not lose anything because the National Congress Party has left them nothing to lose, but everything to gain … their freedom, security and decent living. The regime is still not recognizing this, and continues to depend on its security measures to address the crisis. The death toll of protesters reached several tens in three days of protesting. Live ammunition is being used heavily in the different cities of the country. The scenario of September 2013 protests, when the security forces killed over 200 protesters in the streets who were demonstrating for similar reasons is likely. The NCP masters who seem to learn nothing from it, celebrated this massacre as a success in putting out demonstrations. Security solutions won’t work and never did. However, with the nationwide political fatigue, another terrifying scenario emerges: an internal coup within the NCP. The chief of NISS; Salah Quosh, who returned to his position in the beginning of this year after the humiliating expulsion in 2012 and even his detention and accusation of planning a coup, publicly blamed the cabinet for the economic crisis and how it dealt with the protests. Quosh’s ambition to succeed Bashir is not a secret and was the reason for his expulsion in 2011. However, he is not the only one with such ambitions. Old-guard Islamists are also looking forward to the throne. The Islamist hardliner group headed by the previous presidential aide Nafie Ali Nafie, who disagreed with Bashir’s will to rerun for the 2020 elections as NCP candidate for presidency, are prepared for a battle. Unrest within the army also creates potentials for an Egyptian Sisi style coup d’etat. What is terrifying in all these scenarios is that it will not provide any solutions, and will keep the same kleptocracy in power with some superficial changes in hierarchy. Hence, people suffering will continue with the replacement of an old fatigued dictator with a fresh euthanistic one. Let alone, the most terrifying possibilities of blood bath in Khartoum resulting from the clash between the numerous militias of the NCP; the Rapid Support Forces, the Security Forces and Army, whose allegiances are scattered among the different wings of Islamists and will have to pick a side in such a scenario. People and normal citizens will also be part of such clash. Those who are sacrificing their lives in the streets now will not accept being silent watchers. The only peaceful way to end this would be for the NCP to understand and see that its game is over. It is time to hand over power to a broad national political alliance and face the consequences of 30 years of corruption and mismanagement instead of taking the country on such dangerous pathways. What is happening now in Sudan is the labor of a complete comprehensive change … a genuine revolution born of the suffering of a patient people. The only objective of any sane politician should be to end this suffering. Amgad Fareid Eltayeb is a Sudanese activist, writer and Founder of the blog

Solidarity with the popular uprising in Sudan

By Alliance of Middle East Socialists January 8, 2019 — Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists — We the Alliance of Middle East Socialists support the ongoing uprising which erupted across Sudan starting December 19th, 2018. The protests were set off by the lifting of subsidies on bread, wheat, and electricity as well as spiking inflation. The United Nations Development Program has estimated that nearly half of the population, i.e. 20 million, live below the poverty line. However, their demands go much deeper and call for the downfall of the regime of Omar al-Bashir because of its decades of economic, political, and social repression. The dictator al-Bashir was also on the verge of obtaining constitutional amendments allowing him to run in the presidential election in 2020. The most popular slogans of demonstrators in the cities are “freedom, peace and justice” and “the revolution is the choice of the people”, but also the famous “the people want the fall of the regime”. Many cities have seen the people brave the state of emergency and the curfew that has been established there. This situation demonstrates the depth of the crisis and rejection of Bashir’s regime. The regime which has been in power since 1989 has practiced the most brutal violence against the current protesters, using snipers and thugs to kill at least 39 and arrest over 2000, including the leadership of feminist, labor, and leftist groups. Among those killed was twelve-year-old child Shawqi Ishaq, who has become an icon of the uprising. The protests began in rural areas and in such cities as Atbara, where there is a strong tradition of independent trade unions, which Bashir has attempted to crush. These unions, especially the Sudan Professionals Association (SPA), have continued to be at the forefront, amplifying the voices in the street and serving as an organizational backbone for the movement. Their participation has led to mass arrests of labor cadres and leadership, including SPA secretariat member Dr. Mohamed Nagi al-Assam, Sudanese Teachers’ Committee member and SPA secretariat member Ahmed Rabie, Obstetrical & Gynaecological Society of the Sudan executive committee member Dr. Huweida Ahmed Muhammad al-Hasan, head of Sudan Doctors Union Dr. Ahmed al-Shaikh, deputy head of Sudan Doctors Union Dr. Najib Najmuddin, and Gezira State Teachers Committee head Abdullah al-Hassan. With the spread of the protests and intensification of the regime crackdown, independent unions led by the Sudan Doctors Committee have put into effect a general strike. An independent union of journalists went on a three-day strike. The Sudanese Pharmacists Central Committee have announced a strike. Students and professors have taken part in strikes as well as protests. Up to twenty University of Khartoum professors were arrested. Some were subsequently released due to labor and university pressure. These include SPA secretariat member and economics professor Dr. Mohammad Youssef, sports science professor Dr. Mohammad Abdallah, literature professor Dr. Mamdouh Mohammad al-Hassan, endemic diseases professor Dr. Montasser al-Tayeb, engineering professor Dr. Ali Seory, and literature professor Dr. Mohammad Younes. The Sudanese left has continued to fully support and participate in the uprising. It has rejected the “soft-landing” proposal of Islamist opposition and ruling party groups favored by the international community, in which Islamist opposition groups and factional leaders from within the ruling coalition could continue practicing failed security and economic practices in favor of the international community. The left’s support for the uprising has led to mass arrests and assaults on leftist cadres and leadership. These include Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) Political Bureau member Hanadi Fadl, SCP Central Committee member Kamal Jarrar, SCP Central Committee and Medical and Health Profession Trade Union – Sudan member Dr. Masoud Muhammad al-Hasan, Batoul Rifaai as ransom for her father SCP member Abdulfattah Rifaai, and the shooting of SCP member Yasser al-Sir Ali who is in critical condition. The Sudanese Women’s Union (SWU) and other feminist groups have taken an active role in the leadership of the uprising, remaining at the forefront as they have in past protests against the misogynistic and discriminatory practices of the al-Bashir regime and its predecessors. As a result, the regime has imprisoned several of the most prominent leaders, including SWU leader Adilah Zi’baq, Sudan Democratic Women’s Union leader Munira Sayyid Ali, SWU, SCP, and Sudanese Solidarity Committee member Hanan Muhammad Nour, poet Sumayya Ishaq, lawyer and SWU member Hanan Hassan Algadi, and SWU and SCP member Amal Jabrallah. The regime has practiced decades of political repression by playing off the racial and ethnic prejudices and political divisions within Sudanese society and within regime opponents. This has contributed to the breakup of the country and the creation of a political vacuum unfillable by the distrusted and illegitimate leading Islamist opposition’s National Umma Party (NUP). NUP, led by Sadiq al-Mahdi, has attempted to ride the protest into power. This has often allowed the regime the opportunity to deflect and undermine the radical demands of the street. We stress that the military is an essential partner in the cronyist practices of the ruling regime and its essential arm in repression and political instability both within the country and in South Sudan and Yemen. Those who portray it as an independent institution that has the potential to stand with the people should heed the military’s counterrevolutionary role in Egypt and the Sudanese military’s own statements in support of the regime. After proving a willing partner in the War on Terror and a reliable ally of empire in a region rejecting its tyrannical leaders, Bashir’s arrest warrant from International Criminal Court for his war crimes in Darfur has been diluted and undermined as he restores relations with imperialist powers and gains the support of fellow war criminal and US-installed South Sudan president Salva Kiir in the face of the Sudan uprising. The Bashir regime extended and escalated civil war, weaponizing religious and racist incitement in its genocide against South Sudan and Darfur, with casualties estimated to have surpassed the one million mark in total. The Bashir regime has weaponized the experience it gained in killing its own people by sending battle-hardened tribal leaders accused of rape and killings to Yemen as mercenaries. This reminds us that the repression of the Bashir regime, as any other, is regional and cuts across borders. Additionally, the Bashir regime has successfully played other regional and imperialist powers as well to remain in power. With the launch of the current uprising, Bashir visited Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, announcing his support and purportedly acting as a proxy likely of Saudi Arabia. While maintaining the longer-term alliance with Qatar, he has solidified his relation with Saudi Arabia and partnered in its crimes in order to stabilize his rule. This has led to shows of support from the criminal regimes of both sides, including Qatar’s emir Tamim al-Thani, ruling Turkish AKP, and Egypt’s foreign minister and intelligence chief. Additionally, he has joined other regimes in taking steps towards public normalization with Israel, with Netanyahu pronouncing the ability of Israeli state airline El Al’s ability to conduct flights in Sudanese airspace. Today, Sudanese protesters have rejected the Bashir regime’s sectarian policy and its solidarity with all regional alliances of tyranny, as well as the International Monetary Fund’s disproven policies of impoverishment. They have announced a general strike by a civil society and labor movement which has survived the brunt of the escalating wave of neoliberalization and repression. Considering the Sudan protesters’ brave actions in confronting the ruthless regime forces, and considering as well as the regional and international consensus which has kept Bashir in power for decades, it is imperative upon us to step up and offer support and solidarity to the people’s rebellion and their struggle for social justice, under the popular banner “freedom, peace, justice, and revolution are the people’s choice.”