Apr 15, 2019
The following was translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the French revolutionary workers’ group of that name. Since that article was written, the Sudanese army carried out a coup against long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir. The army says it plans to stay in power for two more years, before it will organize elections. So far, this has not appeased the protestors, and the demonstrations continue.
Thousands of demonstrating women and men have gathered day and night since April 6 in the big cities of Sudan in East Africa. Demonstrators say, “Down with the regime.”
Marshal Omar al-Bashir has imposed his dictatorship over the 40 million citizens of this huge country since 1989. His rule has become unbearable, and he has lost almost all support. Corruption, special privileges for the presidential clique, and the presence of armed repressive forces everywhere were outrageous enough, before the price of bread tripled in December. The high cost of living is one of the main causes of the population’s anger.
While Sudan produces gold, it was hit by an economic crisis after South Sudan seceded in 2011 – along with its oil. The country struggles to import wheat or flour because it doesn’t have any way to get foreign currency, since Sudan doesn’t have oil to export anymore. A U.S. embargo had already dried up the country’s access to dollars. The best farmland is sold to investors from the Persian Gulf, and Sudan’s farms only have alfalfa to export. For some years, the government has regularly repressed protests by small farmers against being forced from their land.
But since December, rallies in the cities have erupted, and this time, repression has failed to stop the movement against al-Bashir. The demonstrators have faced dozens of deaths, the daily violence of the NISS (the security service), more than a thousand arrests in a few days, the torture of detainees, and many shootings. Yet men and women of all ages have not been discouraged, and continue to protest. The state of emergency introduced in February seems to have even increased their number.
Today, women are “everywhere, in the street, in prisons”, as a doctor representing the movement said. In addition to all the other reasons they have for being in the forefront of the movement, women are also subject for the most part to “sharia”, the so-called Islamic law. Sudan established this law in 1983, and after al-Bashir’s coup it was made permanent. Women can be sentenced to flogging—15,000 women suffered this punishment just in 2016—or even stoning to death.
The huge rallies with shouts of “Freedom, Peace and Justice” met in the center of Khartoum, in front of the army headquarters, to demand support for the protests from soldiers. While the military hierarchy still supports al-Bashir, the troops begin to side with the demonstrators, including by shooting in the air to drive away the “security” forces who continued to threaten the protests.
There is no doubt what the opposition leaders want. Many of them are former colleagues of the dictator who have been dismissed from power, and want nothing more than to change the face of this brutal dictatorship. But that is also the hope of the imperialist powers who are anxiously watching the popular uprisings multiply south of the Mediterranean. First and foremost come the European Union and France, whose big corporations and banks have long cooperated with the power of al-Bashir.
The population will have to stay mobilized to get their demands met in the face of these maneuvers.