Rania Obead explores the development of Sudan’s Resistance Committees for the latest issue of Middle East Solidarity magazine. Make a donation for a digital copy here
The idea of forming Resistance Committees (RCs) in Sudan started early, some people say it can be traced back to 2008, while others say it was formed in 2013, but their major role became evident during the December 2018 Revolution.
RCs played a major role in organising protests, deciding the routes and destinations of the demonstrations while protecting the neighbourhoods from the security apparatus attacks, taking care of the wounded, and following up with the arrested.
Following the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 and negotiations between opposition parties, and trade union alliances such as the Sudanese Professionals Association grouped under the banner of the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) on one hand and the Transitional Military Council which took over power on the other, a joint civilian-military government came into office to rule for a transitional period until elections could be held.
RCs continued organising and helping at the local level by providing people’s daily needs. RCs put great pressure on the transitional government to implement the revolutionaries’ demands, and at the top of their list was justice for all victims of violence.
In October 2021, military and militia leaders seized power and threw civilian parties out of office. The RCs began a new chapter as they resisted the coup by organising weekly protests and working on formulating the Resistance Charters to set their vision on how to build and govern Sudan.
The creation of the RC Charters shows an extraordinary democratic process in action, as the discussions started in each single Resistance Committee until they reached an agreement in October 2022 on the Revolutionary Charter for Establishing People’s Power. The Charter was defined as “a political document for initiating a deep-anchored holistic political process, with the ultimate goal of formulating a political vision of national unity that digs deep into the very nature of the national state, governance, economy and transfer of power.” The Charter answers fundamental questions such as how to construct people’s power from the bottom and how Sudan’s economy must be built.
Now, the RCs face a complicated situation, including the cost of living crisis, which affects all Sudanese people. According to the World Food Programme 18 million people in Sudan, 40 percent of the population, are facing acute hunger while inflation reached 83.6 percent, the highest level for 50 years in January 2023.
They must also grapple with the problem of international and regional support for a new political agreement reached between the coup authorities and civilian forces led by the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) in December 2022. Amidst this situation, the RCs must navigate practical steps to implement their vision on the ground.
Most of the RCs members are from the lower and middle classes, with a considerable number of students and fresh graduates. Those groups are highly affected by the cost-of-living crisis and must look for employment and work more hours to afford their essential needs, which lessens the time they can offer to work in the Resistance Committee.
The RCs disagreed with the new political agreement between the military leaders and some political parties because the agreement didn’t consider any steps towards justice for hundreds of victims who lost their lives during this revolution, although the available evidence indicates that the army and the Janjaweed militia are responsible.
The agreement mentions reforming the military and integrating the Janjaweed militia into the national armed forces. However, the question is whether it is possible to have a democracy in a country where the army and the militia have great economic and political powers besides their military capacity?
The Sudanese military totally controls all defence industries and during recent years has started investing in other sectors such as food production. It is estimated that the total military investments account for 80 percent of the country’s economy
Also, this agreement doesn’t have any vision about solving the economic crisis. Instead clearly goes down the same road of connecting with the imperialist power and implementing their policies, which leave millions of Sudanese in poverty as production is geared towards the demands of the international market with no consideration of people’s needs.
Another important factor is Sudan’s level of indebtedness to international lenders which puts massive pressure on the government’s budget.
Therefore, this agreement with the army and Janjaweed leaders accepts their role in the political process with no intention to remove them from power. Furthermore, the compromise deal doesn’t offer alternatives to establish peace, which is the primary issue in Sudan.
For all these reasons, the RCs are fighting for radical change. They believe that Sudan’s problems should be solved by Sudanese people, the majority of ordinary people who have suffered for decades; it is now their time to decide how their country should be governed.
The Resistance Committees are fighting for radical change. They believe that Sudan’s problems should be solved by Sudanese people
The RCs have a clear vision demonstrated in their charters about the main issues in Sudan, such as how to reform and restructure the army and disband the Janjaweed and all militias and armed movements, how to build the Sudanese economy to benefit the Sudanese people, and how to establish a peace process that can lead to sustainable peace in the country.
Now, the RCs are working on implementing the Charter by taking the following steps: continuing building up the resistance movement by adding and organising more people, and continuing the protests and demonstrations. Another important step is supporting and coordinating with the strike movement, while many trade unions are either on strike or trying to build up for one. The RCs coordinate with these groups as they did with the teachers’ strikes. The coordination with trade unions should continue as it is essential to build up and escalate the resistance movement.
RCs are powerful resistance tools because they are a grassroots movement. In the last four years, they have become more mature and learnt by doing. Now, this movement is spreading throughout the country, and despite the complex political and economic situation, the RCs are more determined to move forward in building the county they dream of.
What you can do:
- Send a message of solidarity to striking workers in Sudan – find out more about which unions are taking action here: https://menasolidaritynetwork.com/sudanstrikes/
- Invite a Sudanese speaker to your union meeting – email email@example.com and we will try and connect you with trade unionists from the same sector in Sudan.