Sudan’s Hijacked Revolution: It’s Not Over!

Hussam AbdelKareem

The new wave of demonstrations in Sudan: On September 30, tens of thousands of Sudanese took to the streets in Khartoum calling for democracy and civilian state and chanting against the military leaders who control the government through the “Sovereignty Council”.

Sudan’s revolution was remarkable. It was 111 days of persistent acts of public protests, strikes, and demonstrations between December 20, 2018, and April 11, 2019 lead by a very brave and young revolutionary generation, both men and women, of Sudanese who finally succeeded in defeating the old dictator Omar El-Bashir. Despite the brutality of El-Bashir’s security apparatus that left hundreds of protesters dead, the young revolutionary activists managed to maintain the peacefulness of their movements which proved to be decisive in obtaining public support that lead to the eventual collapse of the dictator who was in power since three decades.

However, it soon became clear that the glorious revolution was “hijacked” by a triangle of powers that apparently made a power-sharing deal to take over the country while excluding the real force that lead the change: the young revolutionary generation! Although the anti-El-Bashir youth movements were supported by Sudan’s “Professionals Association”, it could hardly be said that the revolution was well–organized or centrally lead or directed. It remained without a known or charismatic “leader” who can claim to represent the masses that contributed to the revolution. That fact made it possible for opportunists and remnants of the old regime to “hijack” it.

The first and most important side of this triangle is the military. The generals who served under El-Bashir for decades decided to step in and prevent the total collapse of the old regime and thus the emergence of a truly new and democratic regime lead by young revolutionaries. Notable from the generals was Mohamad Hamdan Daglo, known as “Hemeedaty”, who was the commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Force “RSF” that was established and launched by El-Bashir to fight against the opposition movement in Darfour province in 2003 and after. The RSF, better known as “Janjaweed”, is accused by the international justice of indiscriminate killings and horrible war crimes in Darfour (estimates are that over 300 thousand people were killed and two million more displaced). Hemeedaty- holding now the position of “Deputy Chairman” of the “Sovereignty Council” which rules Sudan in the post-El-Bashir era was El-Bashir’s strong arm and enjoyed unparalleled influence in the country including the gold mining and export business.

The second side is a group of western-educated bureaucrats who served in the UN, the World Bank and other international organizations. Abdalla Hamdok, who spent the last 32 years outside Sudan, was brought in to head the transitional government and thus to give a “civilian” face of post-El-Bashir Sudan. With his background, Hamdok’s mission is simply to lead Sudan to full compliance with the standards of the International Monetary Fund and other USA-controlled international financial organizations.

The third side of the triangle is the old-fashioned elite of Sudan’s traditional parties. Maryam El-Mahdi, daughter of the old Imam Al-Sadik El-Mahdi of Al Umma party, became the Foreign Minister of the transitional government. El-Mahdi’s appointment was obviously intended to show the country’s “public support” to the new political arrangements. Al Umma party, although deeply rooted in Sudan’s recent history, has practically stagnated over the past few decades and can hardly claim any touch with Sudan’s emerging youth generation.

The military leaders who have the upper hand in Sudan today knew very well that they could not survive without obtaining the vital foreign support to keep them in power. So they moved in two directions: the USA and the oil-rich Gulf States. First, they declared Sudan’s acceptance of moral and legal responsibility for the attacks on US embassies in Eastern Africa in 1998 which were carried out by Bin Ladin’s Al Qaeda organization. They even made Sudan (the poor nation who’s practically cash-deprived) actually pay $335 million to the US as “compensation settlement”! Then they announced Sudan’s readiness to join the “normalization with Israel” circus known as “Abraham Accords” and lead by UAE. The Chairman of the ‘Sovereignty Council”, General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, met with Israeli PM Netanyahu and then in October 2020 it was announced that Sudan has formally reached a “normalization agreement” with “Israel”. Donald Trump and the Zionist lobby in the US were so pleased with Sudan’s generals and, in return, Sudan’s name was removed from the US black list of “states sponsoring terror” and thus opening the door for restoring Sudan’s eligibility for getting loans and financial aid from the World Bank.

The war in Yemen is another foreign policy matter that Sudan’s generals are keen to utilize as a tool for getting financial support. The old dictator, El-Bashir, was quick to join the Saudi war campaign in Yemen in 2015. He agreed to send thousands of Sudanese troops to the war zones there (estimates ranging between 15 and 30 thousand soldiers). Obviously, El-Bashir received large sums of money for his contribution (during his trial appearance, it was revealed that El-Bashir personally received bags loaded with US dollars cash from Saudi delegates). Since there are no political or economic hostilities between Sudan and Yemen, the Sudanese troops fighting in Yemen were widely perceived as mercenaries. On December 28, 2018, the New York Times published an important report on Yemen titled “On The Front Line Of Saudi War In Yemen: Child Soldiers From Darfour” which revealed horrible facts about recruiting children from Darfour province and dispatching them to Yemen’s war fronts by General Hemeedaty. The report said that 40% of Sudanese troops sent to Yemen were between 14 to 17 years old! Therefore it was understandable that the withdrawal of troops from Yemen was one of the Sudanese revolution’s demands. With this background, the civilian head of transitional government, Abdalla Hamdok, announced on December 9, 2019, that Sudan is reducing its military presence in Yemen from 15 to 5 thousand soldiers. However, it is almost certain that Hamdok has no say at all in military matters or arrangements. On July 22, 2021, Ansaru Allah in Yemen (known as the Houthis) announced they killed and captured a large number of Sudanese soldiers during military operations in the Saudi-Yemen border areas. It seems certain that the Sudanese generals are maintaining their active troop’s presence in Yemeni fronts to please their Saudi backers, against the will of the vast majority of Sudanese.

After securing the political cover from the US and the financial support from Saudi Arabia and UAE, Sudan’s generals felt they are in a strong position to sit comfortably in power and even tighten their grip on the decision making in the country while leaving the ‘civilian’ transitional government to be blamed for the economic mess and bad conditions in the country. Hamdok’s government failed miserably so far: inflation rate reached record figures last April (300%), Sudan’s currency “pound” lost 85% of its value, foreign currency can hardly be found in the market, price of fuel and bread increased significantly, and severe shortage in electricity supply was imposed to the public. No economic improvement has been noticed, no new projects launched, nothing real has happened to give people hope. Normalization of relations with “Israel”, total obedience to US orders, full adherence to World Bank instructions… all that has been “sold” to the public on the basis that it will bring prosperity and solutions to the country’s problems. That has been proved false and people are realizing, by every passing day, that it’s all illusions and tongue business.

On September 25, demonstrations started in the Eastern provinces in Sudan (the Red Sea and Al-Ghadaref) where protestors even shut down the Port, Sudan’s airport, and export oil lines. On September 30, large-scale demonstrations took place in Khartoum where tens of thousands took to the streets blaming the military control over the country and shouting “Madaniya Madaniya” which is Arabic for “Civilian”. The spirit of revolution in Sudan has not faded out, and its current rulers should expect tougher times to come.