Liberation interviewed Mohaned Elnour, a Sudanese human rights lawyer and the spokesperson of Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA). SPA is an association of different Sudanese trade unions. The association started forming in 2012, as a continuation for the Professional Union which had a significant role in 1985 revolution. After the coup in 1989, the trade union was dissolved and all its leaders were detained, assassinated or had to leave the country to represent the union outside of Sudan. SPA made a significant contribution in December 2018 revolution, organising the protests and civil disobedience. SPA still fights alongside the revolutionary forces to achieve the revolution’s demands: freedom, peace and justice.
Liberation: The coup d’etat of 25th October in Sudan shocked those who had been closely following developments there since the mass uprising of December 2018. What did General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan aim to achieve?
Mohaned Elnour: It’s important to say that this is not a fresh coup as the coup already started on 11th April 2019 followed by many other actions strengthening it to undermine the revolution. What has happened on the 25th of October was the last step in the set-up plan and it didn’t surprise us. General El-Burhan and the warlords never believed in the revolution, but they had to bow [to] the storm [it unleashed]. They wrongly thought it was time to eliminate it, but our revolution is entering its fourth year with the same momentum. In fact, it has become stronger and more organized.
El-Burhan and the leader of Janjaweed militia, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Himidti, alongside other perpetrators, aim to avoid punishment and prosecution for the grave crimes they have committed, and they aim to maintain their grip on the country’s resources of which they control more than 80%, and to continue a proxy war, which provides them with a fortune and international support in the same way former head of state (1989 to 2019) Omer El-Bashir* played his dirty game.
L: How have the popular movement, trade unions and progressives react to the coup? Does the military have a significant social base? Where does support for the military come from?
ME: Four days before the coup, on 21 October, which marked Sudan’s first revolution on 21 October 1964, hundreds of thousands overflowed into the streets of the capital with many cities calling for an end to ‘the blood partnership’ between civilians and military, as Sudanese call it, for it didn’t prevent bloodshed but exactly the opposite. From the 25th of October, millions have been regularly demonstrating, demanding radical change.
The military is guided by the former regime National Congress Party (NCP) which is basically the Islamic brotherhood. Hundreds of civil servants have been replaced by NCP members. This includes top civil servants in the General Intelligence Service (GIS) such as the new GIS director. There are also some opportunist parties that were created either by the NCP or the military after the revolution, in addition to the armed movements that signed the Juba Peace agreement, an agreement that aims to share the power and wealth between warlords rather than solve the main issues that stakeholders have been fighting for. These opportunists paved the way for the coup.
L: What has been the role of major powers such as the US, EU and UK and regional players including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, and the UAE in events since the revolution of 2018 and how have they pursued their objectives?
ME: When the revolution started in December 2018, the international community kept silent for more than three months waiting for the protestors to give up. Again, the international community underestimates the people’s power and keeps silent, but we believe in ourselves; a revolution entering its fourth year is undefeatable!
Since the revolution started, the international community is expanding its contacts with political and military forces and militias with the aim of defending its interests and preserving them. When we refer to the international community, we do not mean only Western governments, but we also refer to Russia, China, and the influential regional governments that have relationships with the former regime and its new iteration. Counter-revolutionary forces, as with any parasite, can’t live on their own and need to feed off international allies.
The Western governments, unlike Russia and China, were clear at the beginning and condemned the ‘military take over’ as they described it, but as soon as the former PM, Abdalla Hamdok, joined the coup, and decided to stand with the perpetrators, this attitude has changed. Moreover, they are trying to convince us to accept the deal between the military and Hamdok and to give up. The statements made by the UN secretary-general, Mr António Guterres, supporting the agreement and urging us to stop our struggle and accept the agreement because he thinks this would be better for the country otherwise Sudan will be in danger, is just an example. This is absolutely unacceptable! Threatening us as the perpetrators do is really disappointing as it provides justification for their crimes and violations. We remind everyone that what brings us together is democracy, good governance, the rule of law, and human rights, which all have been violated by the coup.
Strangely, the previous regime had good relationships with Russia and China, with Saudi, Emirates, Egypt, and at the same time with Qatar. The military wants to maintain these relationships considering only their own interests, not the country’s interests.
L: Do the aforementioned countries benefit from the military remaining in power in Sudan and, if so, how?
ME: It seems like they believe so. They might wrongly think that having the military in power will give them easier access to the country’s resources and an efficient partner in terms of politics, economic and international security. On the contrary, we believe that this is a very short-sighted view. A partnership with a civilian led government in a stable democratic country based on mutual benefit is the ideal model in the 21 century; otherwise, this is a new colonialism.
L: What is the position of the African Union (AU) on current developments in Sudan?
ME: The African Union was the first to react and immediately suspend Sudan after the coup, but as soon as the deal between the former PM and General El-Burhan was signed the suspension lifted. We maintain our call on the AU to take serious steps to save our continent from such barbaric actions. We have to put an end to coups in Africa and to have decent armies that respect democracy and do not intervene in politics.
The Peace and Security Council has a meeting on Sudan next week and SPA will address it, hoping to there will be strong action taken against the coup and the perpetrators.
L: On 21 November, the ruling generals reinstated Abdalla Hamdok as prime minister, and tasked him with appointing a new “technocratic cabinet”. Does this mean that democracy is being restored? What is really happening? What plan is General Abdel Fattah al- Burhan pursuing?
ME: What happened on 21st November is an employment contract according to which Abdalla Hamdok accepts to be the Coup’s PM. His job description is clear and he will be guided by the leader of the coup, General El-Burhan. He works for [the ruling] sovereignty council; its members are also appointed by the same employer, which obviously means democracy hasn’t been restored yet. 27 years in prison did not break Nelson Mandela and he remained committed to his principles, while 27 days in an arrest house was enough to turn Hamdok from a hero in the people’s eye to a traitor.
L: What is the position of the Sudanese Professional Association on recent developments?
ME: SPA has a significant role in the revolution, and was the cornerstone in the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition, but as soon as El-Bashir was ousted, some of the FFC’s political parties, which want to maintain interests inherited from the coloniser, played Trojan Horse to undermine the revolution. In July 2020, the SPA left the coalition and has been criticising the government’s policy as well as the FFC, the political incubator. The SPA has been calling for an end to ‘the blood partnership’. We have been working closely with the Resistance Committees and the forces of the revolution to bring the coup down and to hold the criminals accountable for their crimes.
The Resistance Committees are the backbone of the revolution; they represent the majority who have been neglected since the independence and were agreed on the 3 ‘Nos’: no negotiation, no partnership, and no compromise. We have had eight demonstrations since the coup on 25th October; our civil disobedience has been very successful, and more is to be announced soon; we have held sit-ins for one or two days in some cities and we promise more tactics until bringing this coup down.
The FCC’s position is not clear, even though it raised the three nos, some of its leaders are willing to negotiate, but to negotiate what, nobody knows.
L: Based on their historical behaviour and contemporary policy towards Sudan, what kind of regime do you think the US, UK and Western governments and the multinational corporations would like to see and why?
ME: Western governments are keen to have a civilian led government controlled by the military. They were embarrassed to engage with the coup’s leader, General El-Burhan, but Hamdok has lifted this burden; even though they know this does not change the nature of the coup. They don’t need to worry about their interests as these perpetrators are willing to do anything to remain in power and are not being held accountable for their crimes, no different from El-Bashir.
Khartoum’s regime has always been putty in the hands of imperialism. We believe imperialism is the enemy and with solidarity between free nations, we will keep up the fight not only in Sudan but here [in the UK], in the stronghold of imperialism.
It is worth mentioning that in October 2014, the EU implemented what it called ‘Khartoum Process’ to decrease the number of African migrants getting to Europe. So, millions of Euros were given to those countries; Sudan alone received about 215 million Euros from this fund by April 2017. And not only from this fund but many other EU countries separately supported Sudan.
That is why the leader of Janjaweed militia, who benefited from EU money to strengthen his militia, threatened the EU last week by allowing migrants to cross the border if the international community did not support the coup.
It is also worth noting, good governance, which means democracy, socialism, good management for the resources, anti-corruption and a decent life would stop migrants from leaving their homes, not hard borders. This is what history tells us: Sudan used to stop African migrants from coming to Europe by hosting them and offering a decent life, but only when it was a stable country almost three centuries ago. There were many migrants from all over Africa that were well settled in Sudan and had their life there, not only from the neighbouring countries, but even from the far west [of Africa].
L: What should the ‘international community’ and the British government be doing to ensure that democratic civilian rule is reinstated? What can progressive MPs, the left and the labour and trade union movement in Britain do to help the Sudanese people and their democratic revolution?
ME: We need our voice to be heard here in the UK. The [coup] perpetrators, especially after Hamdok joined them, have a loud voice and can easily be heard, as they represent imperialism. It is obvious that Hamdok’s main job is to convince the international community to restore economic aid.
We also urge our comrades to make sure that this economic aid will not be restored under this situation as it will end up in corrupted hands that kill us and try to kill our dream to have freedom, peace, and justice.
And finally, [we want to see] sanctions against the military leaders and any individual that has been deemed responsible for the coup.
Photo: Protest in solidarity with Sudan in front of the German Foreign Ministry / Creative Commons