On Monday September 23 a wave of spontaneous popular protests broke out in Sudan. The wave was triggered by an increase in the price of fuel and basic food items caused by a long history of impoverishment and oppression by the National Congress Party (NCP) that has ruled the country for a quarter of a century. These protests were not incited by any political organization but by citizens who are struggling to earn their daily living. It was led by high school students, youth and breadwinners in the neighbourhoods of the cities of Wad Medani, Greater Khartoum area, Port Sudan, Kassala and Ghadarif.
The Sudanese regime cracked down without mercy on peaceful protests; on the first day of protests police, security and pro-government militias used live ammunition. Bullets were aimed at the upper part of the body, in what appeared to be a shoot-to-kill. On Monday night Khartoum and Omdurman witnessed heavy tear gas accompanied with live ammunition and protests continued into the early hours of Tuesday. Wednesday September 25 was the bloodiest day in Khartoum with approximately 150 peaceful protesters shot dead by government militia and national security forces. The massacre took place when the internet was cut off for approximately 24 hours. Besides shooting peaceful protesters, witnesses testified that police and security forces retreated from many major streets and neighbourhoods in Omdurman and South Khartoum before sunset, then mass numbers of militias suddenly launched their attack using live ammunition. On September 27 and 28 the demands of the protesters went beyond economic hardship and corruption to the toppling of the regime and justice for the martyrs. This is when the police guided peaceful protestors into traps - a street or square with limited exits, where they were attacked by NISS and government militias leading to numerous deaths. Government officials and police authorities then accused the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) cells in Khartoum of killing peaceful protesters and destroying public and private property.
Aspirations for regime change
Within the past two months I’ve been interviewing activists from the Girifna (means we’re fed up) Youth Movement, Sudan Change Now (SCN) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) about the possibilities of peaceful and armed regime change.
One of the members of Sudan Change Now, Khalid Omer, detained since September 30 said when I met him last August “People previously waited for the National Consensus Forces to bring about change. Now each and every citizen is a change maker. Youth didn’t wait for political parties when they took the streets in January 2011 against the NCP. Now the NCP is on its last legs getting weaker politically and economically, interfering with tribalism and using racism to discriminate against fractions of Sudanese society."
An activist from Girifna Youth Movement, M.M, said “Girifna is a nonviolent resistance movement working on promoting human rights and sustainable peace. We are inspired by Ghandi’s non violence techniques and similar movements from Asia. Changing the regime is not our final goal but achieving social justice is. Thus if the NCP is removed and the revolution is accomplished, Girifna will continue its work on reconciliation, educating people about their rights and promoting sustainable peace”
According to Khalid, Sudan Change Now is also working on several campaigns targeting social change such as the “Against Racism Campaign” that was launched in May 2013.
Dr. Abdallah Teia Jumaa, a member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N); a political and armed movement said, “It’s time to topple the NCP or the people of Sudan will continue suffering. It has been proven that the youth can organize themselves successfully and fearlessly take to the streets in peaceful protests. But the regime is killing people daily in South Kordofan, the Blue Nile region and Darfur. Nothing worse could happen to us. More activism is needed to get rid of the NCP.”
Malik Aggar, head of the SRF, and Gibril Balal, spokesperson for the Justice and Equality Movement - an armed opposition group and member of Sudanese Revolutionary Front, maintained that they will put their arms down and stop military operations as soon as the Albashir regime has fallen.
Recent protests have revealed how fragile the NCP is. The false accusations of the SRF being responsible for killing peaceful protesters has made people reconsider the role of the government and police authorities. Residents of Khartoum believe that the NCP is targeting Sudanese citizens financed by resources which ought to be used to feed the poor and offer education and health facilities for Sudanese citizens. The use of excessive force on peaceful protesters undermines NCP justification of protecting Arab Muslim identity from traitors and western agents aimed at dividing the Sudanese community. While people in the war zones are continuing their struggle through both peaceful and armed means; people in the capital are convinced of the legitimate right of self-defense and armed struggle. Although the wave of protests has shrunk during the past few days, the list of grievances is increasing. Popular anger will soon explode in the streets: it’s only a matter of time.