A Sudanese Revolution? No thanks: Been there done that.

Goes without saying but just to make sure: Everything I write reflects my own personal viewpoint. Disagreement is not a problem, as long as it’s accompanied with respect.

Just like most countries in the Middle East, a revolution in Sudan is needed. But if by revolution we mean following the steps of Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Egypt, then a Sudanese revolution will never happen.

It is not as if Sudanese people haven’t revolted before. In fact, Sudan has the richest history of political unrest in the region. Back in 1985 a widespread popular unrest lead to the overthrow of President Jafaar Numayri, and a Transitional Military Council was set up to rule the country. Shortly afterwards, Al Sadiq al Mahadi was elected as prime minister, but he was overthrown by military coup in 1989  and Omar Al-Bashir was appointed  president in 1993 to this day. Evidently, Sudan has experienced constant political unrest since its independence in 1956.

Revolutions aiming at toppling political regimes have been done before, and many Sudanese think it should happen again now with the Bashir regime. In the twenty years Bashir has been ruling, the country has fallen into a draining unpopular and very expensive war in the Darfur, Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan, and the Nuba Mountains, which resulted in a warrant issued for his arrest by the International Criminal Court (ICC). As stated in the Hague Justice Portal, Bashir was charged for crimes against humanity, accounting for the genocide against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups in the Western region of Sudan.

Undoubtedly, Sudan is a political mess, and economically it is not better off either. Recently, Bashir announced the gradual removal of fuel subsidies as part of the extreme austerity measures to be implemented throughout the country. Since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, Sudan has suffered from a $2.4 billion budget deficit caused by the loss of oil revenue. As a result, prices of food, petrol and commodities have gone up, leaving most Sudanese people living in poor and frustrating conditions.

A spark of protests

It is apparent that Sudanese people do not lack incentive for a revolution; the majority is quite dissatisfied with their current status of living. Aided by social media and raising frustration, students and members of the government’s opposition organized small groups of protestors who gathered up in the streets and called for the fall of the regime. One article in The Guardian, reported that students gathered at the gates of Khartoum’s Sudan University chanting “No to price hikes”, before the police dispersed them using “excessive violence”. They also protested against the hike in public transportation fees and called for the “liberation” of the campus from the presence of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).  Slowly, Khartoum and other cities began to witness daily protests by different groups, who are driven by a various political agenda. In a similar move to the protests that fueled the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria, the protesters chanted “the people want the fall of the regime,” and “we will not be ruled by a dictator,” and “revolution, revolution until victory.” But President Omar al-Bashir downplayed the increasing unrest, dismissing the protesters as a bunch of “aliens and bubbles”. The article published in Sudan Tribune website reports him threatening the protestors with deploying a group of “Muhajhdeen” to crackdown on them.

But dismissing protestors is not a unique strategy; it has also been used by the presidents of Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt when their protestors first took to the street. Egyptians for one, continued to protest in 2011 even after Mubarak tried to make light of their revolution. But while their numbers continued to pile up at the Tahrir square, in Sudan, the number of protesters gradually died down, leading many to question the possibility of a Sudanese revolution to ever happen.


Members of Girifna– a Sudanese nonviolent resistance movement- are still hopeful. They believe that the country’s current distressing economic conditions will be a breaking point for the majority of Sudanese, who “will not willingly continue subsidizing a regime that has plundered 60 billion US dollars in oil revenue during the current self-inflicted fiscal crisis”. Girifna group are right in one sense: Sudanese people indeed have a “strong social fabric” that equips them to absorb more than most countries, having suffered “continuous hardships and difficult experiences”. But perhaps that is exactly why a Sudanese revolution in the known sense cannot happen.

Lack of hope

Other than fearing for their lives, young Sudanese protestors suffer from the lack of encouragement by the rest of the population and the void of a well deserving and trustworthy political alternative to risk their lives for.

Indeed, Sudanese people are exhausted. Most of them feel helpless and hopeless.

With no proper oppositional leader to root for and thousands of protesters detained and tortured by the regime, it is hard to blame the public for the gradually decreasing number of protestors in the streets.

There is also a more subtle reason. Since the beginning of his rule twenty years ago, President Omar Al Bashir had promised to implement the Sharia law in Sudan; a country where the vast majority of the citizens are Muslims. Unsurprisingly, after twenty years of Islamic propaganda presented in the media and campaigned by the regime, the undereducated mass have been brainwashed and sensitized into associating the regime with Islam. Despite the obvious flawed implementation of Islamic teachings in Sudan, many Sudanese still feel that revolting against the regime would amount to an outright objection to an Islamic rule.

A true change

Toppling regimes is something the Sudanese have done before, but had never worked out to their benefit simply because changing regimes is not the answer. Revolutions can easily be hijacked from the people and eventually end up replacing one failed political party with another. If the current conditions remain the same, it is hard to see a revolution sparking, and any protests on the streets would not be able to change Sudan fundamentally.

Say however, efforts were made to spread awareness among the public about the how a true implementation of Islam would look like, in contrast to how it had been exploited and misrepresented by the regime. And say that, an organized, educated and politically able opposition group emerged, giving Sudanese an alternative they are willing to trust and fight for. When and if that happens, the Sudanese spring would finally have the right ground to grow on, and only then would a true revolution take place.



5 responses to “A Sudanese Revolution? No thanks: Been there done that.

  1. The most forthright and concise post I ever read regarding Sudan revolution. Well done.

  2. Hey. I like your blog and respect your opinion, but I have a few thoughts to share.

    Your ending note tells me you’re as frustrated as we all are, but you’re seeing a distorted image.

    “And say that, an organized, educated and politically able opposition group emerged, giving Sudanese an alternative they are willing to trust and fight for. When and if that happens, the Sudanese spring would finally have the right ground to grow on, and only then would a true revolution take place”.

    Allow me to offer you an alternative position.

    The revolutions in the rest of the Arab world are indeed complicated scenarios, but they’re change in the making. Toppling the regime isn’t the end point, it’s the middle point.

    In Sudan, Inqaz has dismantled the revolution machines; workers and professional unions. Inqaz replaced them with dummies or removed them from he map entirely. They do have a strong hold, but that doesn’t mean we can’t mobilize civil strikes – but we need momentum and a breaking point for that to happen. This time around though, it’ll be social before political.

    Which brings me to my main point in reference to the quoted sentences above.
    I find it interesting that you cited Girifna of all the youth/opposition movements…

    As you’ve noted the political scene is tricky at this point, dismantled, bribed into NCP, with military affiliations etc. They do not represent us, some think “at all” others think “well enough”. Al mohim, yes we need them to brush off their compromises and step up, since they’re organized and a political party is what will lead the country into better governance. When we have a free atmosphere they’ll have to present their programs and we’ll vote accordingly. Until that happens, they’ll water down charters (New Dawn), go into endless cycles of futile negotiations, and straight up condemn peaceful protests.

    We are the opposition group, the masses, the ones who are dealt injustice in all its ugly forms and bear the brunt of Inqaz policies and brutally oppressive governance. Opposition doesn’t mean protesting or chanting against the government, it’s challenges the system that is meant to serve ME, us, to better my life and so I can serve my country better/more. Every time you plug the holes the government is leaving behind; everything from choosing local produce to help the economy, to volunteering to rebuild a school, or donating clothes to the thousands upon thousands of volunteers – you are breaking the Inqaz wheel. This is opposition. The natural route is for it to boil over when we’re all stretched thin without much changing. When the social hits the political wall and if policies don’t change we can’t further the betterment of the social. It is ultimately about the social, but you’ll have to exhaust that line of thought till you reach the political umbrella.

    Many of us are not waiting for change, we are change.
    The revolution is ongoing.

    Hope this was food for thought.

    Keep writing 🙂

  3. Hi there! Thank you for your comment.

    I can see logic in what you’re saying, but I’m curious as to what you think/imagine would be considered an enough momentum or a “breaking point for that to happen”?

    Also, I liked how you defined opposition: “Opposition doesn’t mean protesting or chanting against the government, it’s challenges the system that is meant to serve ME, us, to better my life and so I can serve my country better/more.”

    What troubles me is the fact that the other revolutions that are “in the making” as you describe it has so far reached the same point we have reached 20 years ago. Maybe I am seeing things from a gloomy point of view, and you have given me some thoughts to chew on.

    Thanks! 🙂

  4. It’s great to find out that an old friend, has grown up as a thinker & a writer like u, this is the 1st point Zainab. 🙂
    the 2nd one: all u have mentioned in true & I think people in Sudan will some how find the right way to revolt against both government & the current opposition leaders. My gut feeling says this will happen spontaneously & all of a sudden.
    Let’s pray for the best.

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