Over two years have passed since the Sudanese revolution that began in December 2018. Months of daily peaceful protests throughout Sudan culminated in the mass sit-in in front of the country’s Army Headquarters, thereafter putting an end to the thirty-year-long rule of the National Islamic Front and their dictator General Omar Al-Bashir in April 2019.
There remain four distinct dynamic forces in the current situation in Sudan: (i) the Army high command and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF); (ii) the various political parties, alliances, and armed movements; (iii) the revolutionary forces, including the resistance committees; and (iv) the international and regional powers.
Although the ousting of Al-Bashir was an outcome of the build up of the Sudanese people’s struggle and sacrifices throughout the years, the spark of the December 2018 Revolution was in fact the increase in the price of bread and the high cost of living. People took to the streets reciting the slogan of the revolution; “Freedom, Peace and Justice”.
These aspirations were faced from the outset with the contradicting interests of certain minorities generally well-connected to the ex-regime (deep state) and in full control of the country’s infrastructure and resources. They are referred to as “parasitic capitalists” in Sudanese politics and control non-productive businesses that have emerged along with brokers, agents of foreign banks, petroleum capital, and the different corruption and plunder linked companies. The army seniors as well as the head of the (RSF) are linked with this group as they continue to protect their economic interests. The RSF, formerly known as the Janjaweed Militia, which committed atrocities in Darfur, has emerged as a strong economic power with its control of the gold mining industry and participation in the war against Yemen.
According to media sources, the Army and Security Services continue to own and run about 250 companies operating in vital industries. These are exempt from taxes, not subject to reviews, and remain outside of the control of the Ministry of Finance and National Economy.
Prior to the fall of Al-Bashir, there had been a well-planned strategy by the US administration and the Troika countries for a “soft landing” in Sudan, which aimed for a change in Al-Bashir’s regime by a negotiated deal with opposition groups via African Union mediation. This was rejected by the Sudanese Communist Party and the National Consensus Forces (NCF) alliance at the time, which worked and called for the peaceful popular uprising to achieve change. On the other hand, the Sudan Call alliance’s approach was to pursue negotiations as planned by the western countries and even participate in Al-Bashir’s planned elections in 2020. The Sudan Call Alliance – which includes the National Umma Party, Sudanese Congress Party, Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), and other parties – had to join the revolution once they realised its inexorable momentum in January 2019. The declaration of Freedom and Change was then announced by the Sudanese Professional Association (SPA) and signed by the NCF, the Sudan Call forces and others.
This broadened alliance – the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) – was obliged to follow the course of the peaceful popular mass movement that swept the country and was determined to realise its goals. A great asset to Sudan’s present and future was the establishment of the Resistance Committees within every neighbourhood, town and city: a unique non-centralized organisation of revolutionaries, who will continue the struggle for the demands of the revolution and act as a defence wall against any return to military rule.
The Sudanese people were alone in their struggle against Al-Bashir who had gained some international credence in his last years in power. Foreign powers were persistent in controlling the path and the outcome of the revolution. The famous massacre of the 3 June 2019 where the sit-in took place remains an act that would not have taken place without the green light and facilitation of some regional powers that see the success of the Sudanese revolution as a great threat to their interests. The clear involvement and influence of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, as well as several western countries has been subsequently revealed.
Since the Transitional Government was formed in August 2019, it has faced major challenges and obstacles – mostly from the military members of the Sovereign Council. Contrary to their honorary role agreed upon, they have taken the lead in important executive tasks. The civilian branch of the government remains weak, less organised, and divided. Overall, the administration is no longer seen as the truly civilian government the people were aspiring for. The Transitional Government has so far negated to establish the Transitional Legislative Council and has failed to make the necessary judiciary reforms and bring justice to the victims of the Darfur genocide and other atrocities throughout the country, including the 3 June 2019 Massacre.
Economically, the path taken by the Transitional Government of following the IMF and the World Bank prescriptions is leading the country into crisis, despite the removal of Sudan’s name from the US’ list of ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’. Prices are rising and people continue to struggle with their daily living. The government has completely ignored the alternative economic reform pathway called for by the FFC as well as the recommendations of the National Economic Conference held in September 2020.
On foreign affairs, Sudan has normalised relations with Israel, following on from the UAE and Bahrain. The people received the move with shock and surprise and many questioned whether the Transitional Government had the mandate for it! This serves to underline how Sudan’s administration is being manipulated to serve foreign interests and policies.
The government signed the Juba peace agreement with the RSF in October 2020. Many see this as an agreement leading to power-sharing and not necessarily towards peace. It excluded vitally affected groups – whether civilians in the displaced people camps or in other war-torn areas, or the major rebel movements on the ground such as the Sudan Liberation Movement (Abdelwahid Faction) or the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement -North led by Al-Helou. The approach towards a long-lasting peace would ideally be via a national constitutional congress with the participation of all groups to look into the root causes of conflict in Sudan and reach a national consensus and agreement on a new constitution.
The recent reshuffle of cabinet following the signed peace agreement in Juba with the SRF clearly shows that the transitional government will continue its policies against the will of the people on following the roadmap made by those regional and international powers.
The continuing deviation of the Transitional Government from the people’s demands and its persistence in transforming Sudan into a neoliberal state, will ultimately lead to further division and realignment on Sudan’s political scene. The Sudanese Communist Party has withdrawn from the FFC in November 2020 – and, prior to that, the SPA witnessed a split in its leading Council.
To conclude, the outcome of the revolution has not yet met the people’s expectations. The current Transitional Government has adopted neoliberal policies that will inevitably lead to further deterioration in the country’s economy. Ultimately, it will fall to the Resistance Committees and the various revolutionary forces to continue their resistance to such policies and fight for a better Sudan.