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.