The Sudanese refuse to give up their fight for freedom

Sudanese protesters take to the streets on October 21, 2020 in Khartoum and neighbouring cities against a worsening economic crisis, and to demand justice for people killed during past demonstrations that toppled president Omar al-Bashir [Getty Images]
6 min read
12 November, 2021
Despite being hindered by a nationwide internet blackout, the Sudanese people have shown inspiring levels of fortitude in adversity with their will to be heard and enact change in their homeland – both on the ground and in the diaspora.

It has been almost three whole weeks since a Sudanese person on the streets of Khartoum or Al-Fashir has had access to the internet. Since the October 25 military coup, Sudan’s populace has been effectively cut off from the world and each other, and nothing good happens when a military leadership isolates a population.

Yet, despite the lack of phone and internet comms, the people push on, peacefully, valiantly, non-violently.

They follow a schedule of resistance planned by their neighbourhood resistance committees that include, organised nationwide civil disobedience, barricade nights, and millions of marches. The next major march is planned for this Saturday, November 13 and the people are accepting no less than full civilian sovereignty. 

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The first ‘Millions March’ against the military coup was held on October 30, in the tradition of the ‘milyoneeya’ of the 18/19 Revolution. Under the guidance of neighbourhood resistance committees around the nation, an estimated four million people took to the streets, decrying the actions of military leaders and calling for a civilian government.

"There is immeasurable power in story, and the tale from the ground fills me with nothing short of awe and admiration. It is a tale turned legend, the saga of a people refusing to compromise, refusing to settle, refusing to give up"

The Sudanese diaspora and their allies also answered the klaxon, turning out in 50 cities around the world, from Paris, France to Perth, Australia. The demand was simple: no negotiations, no compromise, no power-sharing. Gone is any interest in a civilian-led government that foreign states have declared support for. 

The patience that was already running thin has now dried up entirely.

Military leaders demonstrated their duplicity when they overthrew the civilian-led transitional body in place. There was no trust left. And so, we marched.

Despite the millions on the street on October 30, military general Abdul Fattah Burhan and his allies pushed on, positioning themselves as ‘saviours’ of the revolution while simultaneously reinstating corrupt Bashir-era officials, holding the civilian prime minister under house arrest and reportedly reopening the nightmarish ‘ghost houses’, unofficial locations of detention and torture.

Sudanese people stage a demonstration demanding the end of the military intervention and the transfer of administration to civilians in Khartoum, Sudan on October 30, 2021 [Getty Images]
In their millions, the Sudanese people took to the streets to protest Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan's signalled coup. Since assuming power, Al-Burhan has made no effort to engage with the political sphere, nor has he provided viable alternatives [Getty]

The military’s strategy seems to be simply ‘act as if all is well’ and life has ‘returned to normal’ on the streets, all the while, repressing the truth, primarily by ensuring that no word can get out.

While writing this piece, news emerged of Burhan announcing a brand new government, led by himself and retaining numerous figures from the previous council but none from the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) political coalition previously involved. A bold and reckless action, two days before the November 13 Millions March.

Burhan underestimates his own country's people.

In revolutions, people fighting for change must not only oppose those in power who seek to control and oppress but must also resist any narrative of defeat. They must ignore stories that say ‘it isn’t possible’ pointing to the unsuccessful experiences of neighbouring states, eroding the fortitude and foundation of their movement.

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There is immeasurable power in the story, and the tale from the ground fills me with nothing short of awe and admiration. It is a tale turned legend, the saga of a people refusing to compromise, refusing to settle, refusing to give up.

In lieu of telecommunication lines, people become the pillars of transmission, travelling house to house, informing each other of the protest programme.

They band together to build barricades with bricks in their neighbourhood streets. They wield paintbrushes like wands, transform concrete walls into community noticeboards, emblazoning their visions across the urban landscape. And that’s only in Khartoum, only what we, from the outside, can see. The resistance, organising, and defiance stop not at the capital city's borders, but burn bright across the nation and beyond.  

"It is on us to make sure their stories are told, their true desires are amplified and their power is not undermined by uncaring political machinations"

For we, the diaspora, are too alight with the glow. Many, like myself, grew up knowing only Bashir’s dictatorship, handed down undying embers of resistance from our parents, with their own memories of standing up against the military regime (‘al-keizan’).

And although we may not be on the front line, many of us have taken it upon ourselves to ensure the Sudanese story is at least at the front of the mind, doing what we can to amplify the voices on the ground, doing our part in ensuring Bashir and men like him are banished from the positions of power they so viciously hold on to.

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Citizen journalists upload daily update videos on Instagram, create infographics with nitty-gritty summaries of the politics, and simply just turn their protest into art.

The website sudancoup.com was created as a resource hub to cut through the noise and misinformation, a one-stop-shop for those wanting to learn more about activities on the ground, find their local solidarity march or organisation, email their elected representative and sign up to a text messaging service to receive campaign action prompts.

Sudan diaspora protest website
Sudancoup.com was created as a resource hub for those wanting to learn more about activities on the ground

The #EndSudanBlackout campaign encourages the public to pressure telecommunications companies like MTN and Zain to fulfil their digital human rights commitments and immediately end the internet shutdown. A coordinated #EndSudanBlackout action online is planned for November 14.  

Perspectives

The last time Sudan made major global headlines was in 2019. People had been flooding the streets for months, determined to overthrow the decades-long dictator, Omar al-Bashir, demanding freedom, peace, justice and a civilian government.

Exceeding expectations of external observers, they were successful in overthrowing Bashir, but the road to complete freedom is long, with potholes, trapdoors and roadblocks as far as the eye can see.

This coup may not be the last obstacle to the justice and civilian sovereignty the Sudanese so dearly deserve, but I truly believe it will not stand in their way. The people on the street are doing their bit, laying their lives on the line for an ideal. Our role, on the outside, is drastically different, and not insignificant.

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It is on us to make sure their stories are told, their true desires are amplified and their power is not undermined by uncaring political machinations.

It is on us to pressure delinquent telecom companies, intervening foreign states, and questionable lobbying firms. It is on us to support the calls of the people, the promise sprouting out from a civil society long parched of possibility. It is on us to continue to believe that a better future is possible because those on the streets do. Who are we to doubt them? 

Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a Sudanese-Australian author, engineer and social justice advocate.

Follow her on Twitter: @yassmin_a