Sudanese activists Khalid Sidahmed and Mohammed Siddeq analyse the current crisis in Sudan for Middle East Solidarity magazine. Mass protests and strikes have continued to mobilise tens of thousands in defiance of the leaders of the military coup which took place in October 2021. More recently, as Khalid Sidahmed explains, protests have begun against a new political agreement for a ‘power-sharing’ arrangement between civilian opposition parties and the military supported by some of the civilian political forces removed from power by the coup. Meanwhile as Mohammed Siddeq explores in the analysis below, splits have emerged between the leaders of the coup, with the head of the Rapid Support Forces militia, Hemedti, publicly denouncing the October 2021 events. This rhetoric should not be taken at face value, he warns, as the RSF can be no more trusted to support the cause of democracy than a leopard to change its spots.
‘The power belongs to the people, and only they can shape their future’
On February 28th, 2023, Sudanese revolutionary Ibrahim Majzoub was killed by the police during a demonstration against the military coup that took place on October 25th, 2021. The protesters were also opposing the political framework agreement that is supported by some Sudanese political parties and capitalists, UNITAMS-AU-IGAD (the Tripartite Mechanism formed by the UN, the African Union and another intergovernmental body formed by states in East Africa), and the Quad and Troika groups of foreign states (Norway, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States). The framework agreement only helps its supporters to exploit and plunder Sudan’s wealth.
This incident is a tragic reminder of the ongoing struggle of the Sudanese people for democracy and justice. The revolution started in December 2018 and overthrew the long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. However, the transitional government that followed has been struggling to establish stability and democracy in the country.
The military coup of October 25th, 2021 disrupted the fragile democratic process in Sudan and sparked widespread protests. The resistance committees, which are grassroots neighbourhood networks of Sudanese residents, have been leading the protests and demanding a civilian government that is elected by the people to serve the people.
The unions are also playing a crucial role in this revolution. They are still building themselves and have the potential to unite with the resistance committees to strengthen the movement. To succeed, the unions must act quickly and in a coordinated manner. Without the support of the working class and unions to unite with the resistance committees, the revolution will face significant challenges.
If they can unite, they can organise continuous strikes and demonstrations, bringing the economy to a standstill and forcing the coup militias to retreat and surrender. The power, unity and clarity of vision of the revolutionaries and the working class are essential in the quest for change and democracy.
However, the road to victory is not easy. The revolutionary movement is facing a well-funded and well-organised opposition. Nonetheless, the Sudanese people are determined to continue their struggle until they achieve their goals of democracy, justice, and equality.
In conclusion, the killing of revolutionary activists is a tragedy, but it will not stop the people’s will to fight for their rights. The resistance committees, the unions, and the working class must unite to advance the revolution and bring about real change in Sudan. The power belongs to the people, and only they can shape their future.
A wolf as a hunting dog? Contradictions grow between the coup leaders
In recent weeks tension has been escalating between Sudanese Army leader al-Burhan and his ally Hemedti. Recently, and for the first time, the Army commanders have publicly spoken about integrating RSF into the military, and the RSF leader responded in the latest episode of the series of public speeches by admitting that the military intervention to topple the government in October 2021 was a coup, whereas he described it previously as a “corrective action.” He also said he regarded it as a mistake he would like to correct. (We might describe this as Hemedti’s law of the correction of the correction). Hemedti also called for justice for the martyrs, despite the RSF’s consistent role in killing protesters!
The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) is a paramilitary unit which grew out of the Janjaweed militias in Darfur. The force was renamed and changed administration a few times before given the current name to operate under the Commander in Chief after legislation passed by the previous regime in 2017.
In the midst of the storm of the revolutionary uprising in April 2019, the RSF announced they were taking the protestors’ side and would not participate in the repression of protests. The leader of the RSF, Mohammed Hamdan Daglo (known as Hemedti) formed an alliance with the Sudanese Army chief, General al Burhan, to create a military bloc which aimed at stopping the revolution from achieving radical change. They signed a power-sharing agreement with the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), the broad political coalition that formed the uprising’s political leadership in 2019.
The road to this compromise was paved with violent repression, led by the RSF and Sudanese Security Forces who repeatedly attacked protesters.
The military bloc worked to undermine the fragile power-sharing experience that was supposed to lead to a democratic transition. They attempted several manipulations and eventually seized power on the 21st of October, 2021.
Hemedti has been rejecting calls to integrate his forces into the army within a Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration (DDR) programme as demanded by civilian parties. On the other hand, the army leaders have been reluctant and sometimes confused to discuss the issue, sticking to the cliché that the RSF is already part of the army.
Hemedti’s latest announcement is not unexpected as it brings into the open one of the deferred confrontations in Sudanese politics reflecting conflicts of interests between the leaders of the Armed Forces and the RSF in relation to state power , and their economic and political ambitions. The confrontation was accelerated by pressure from the persistent struggle of the Sudanese people resisting the coup since the dawn of October 25th 2021. The effect of the early resistance on the junta was confessed by Hemedti when he said that he realised the mistake on the first day.
This clash carries the long-feared risk of armed conflict between the Army and RSF. However, the scene’s complexity makes it difficult to predict the likelihood. For example, the expansion of the RSF all over Sudan in the past few years could indicate the risk of urban warfare. However, at the same time, this expansion was at the expense of the loyalty to Hemedti since the composition of the troops shifted from being semi-tribal militia to paramilitary forces that were built by recruited Army elements that are saturated with Sudanese Army “chauvinism”, which could make Hemedti thinks more than twice before ordering attacks on the Army.
Moreover, despite conflict, the interests of the two sides can bring unity between the opposites because these interests are privileges that they would not be willing to give up easily.
A leopard never changes its spots!
It is not the first lie by the coup leaders and will not be the last. Both sides of the junta were involved in crimes against humanity in Darfur during the early 2000s, the massacre on 3 June 2019 in Khartoum, and other parts of the country, when the RSF was involved in breaking up mass sit-ins by protesters and killing at least people in Khartoum alone. The armed forces and RSF have killed a further 124 martyrs during demonstrations against the coup since October 2021. So, many actions they have taken are motivated mainly by the desire to clean up their image and distance themselves from criminal responsibility. The risk of sharing this common fate is another factor that could make them work on settling their fights. However, the contrary may also be the case, in other words that the narcissism and brutality of these characters will fuel conflicts between them, outweighing any common interests.
A wolf as a hunting dog?
One of the risks manifested in the current situation is that politicians lean towards one side among the armed bodies of men associated with the state in an attempt strengthening their stance, thinking of using the wolf as a hunting dog to run after the other predator. The signatories of the framework agreement, the central link in the running compromise, led by the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), welcomed Hemedti’s speech, repeating the mistake of April 2019 when the political forces welcomed an RSF statement alleged supporting the uprising shortly before the fall of the previous regime. That was a mistake the political coalition lived the following years with its consequences and ended up hunted by the wolves.
Also, it is a political miscalculation to welcome a speech in which one admits a coup while the leaders of another coup are being put on trial (al Bashir and his group). Military coups were criminalised during the time of the Transitional Government 2019-2021, through legislation passed when the majority of the forces which welcomed Hemedti’s recent speech were in government. Logically, therefore, Hemedti’s admission that he carried out a coup ought to lead them to call on him to surrender the power and then submit to a fair trial, rather than welcoming his remarks.
Revolution is the Choice of the People
It is the answer to addressing the complex dynamics of dishonesty, conflict of interests, the balance of weaknesses, counter-revolution motives, and internal and external lobbying (involving the wolves, hyenas, and foxes of the international and regional communities)
What you can do:
- Go to our strike solidarity action page for more info on what you can do to support Sudanese workers in struggle