How the Sudan military hijacked a revolution

Saturday June 15 2019

Demonstrators on April 12, 2019 march towards the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan, to demand the formation of a civilian government, a day after the military took power and arrested long-time President Omar al-Bashir. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The Sudanese Professional Association (SPA) that is leading Sudan’s civil protests, now entering their seventh month, was officially established in August 2013 after surviving attempts by security agents to kill it since 2010.

Five years later, however, it has evolved into a well-organised behemoth with a governance structure encompassing specialist committees and professionals. The committees mainly comprise doctors, schoolteachers, university lecturers, journalists and lawyers.

When the association started agitating against the economic hardships brought on by the lifting of subsidies on fuel, bread, electricity and other essential commodities — as the government sought to compensate for loss of revenue from Juba’s oil — it found a ready appeal among the masses. It also employed stealth to spread its message by operating below the radar of security agents.

Sudanese political analyst Altybe Zain Alabdin says that the SPA operated as an underground organisation for months to avoid detection by security agents and used social media effectively.

“The SPA has blended the tactics of traditional Sudanese trade unions and new tools of social media and digital security. This is how it has succeeded in concealing its intentions while reaching the people so well,” Zain Alabdin explained.

However, the professor of genetics at Khartoum University says the revolution will take time to succeed because the deep state — security agents, Bashir diehards and militias — control the majority of vital public institutions in the country.


One of the SPA founders Muntasir Altybe said that the assault on protesters at the military headquarters on June 3 will have far-reaching consequences as the revolution will continue until justice is seen to be done.

Sudanese political expert Alhaj Hamad points out: “The large scale violence that happened in Khartoum is threatening the people who monopolised the privilege of the country for a long time. Sudan is now occupied by militias as a result of the 30 years of injustice under Bashir.’’

He warned that Sudan may go the way of failed states like Somalia and Yemen as the Transitional Military Council’s sponsoring militias to help it hold on to power. The military argues that the quick return to civilian rule could lead to anarchy given the many competing interests in different parts of the country.

Its argument has been somewhat strengthened by the SPA’s own failings. A scholar at the Rift Valley Institute, Magdi Al-Gizouli, believes that the SPA and the opposition alliance of the Alliance for Freedom and Change erred in accepting a negotiated solution as it helped the military and others forces opposed to civilian rule to regroup.

“They should not have accepted the negotiation and the participation of the army in the transitional government,” he pointed out. That has left Sudan torn between forces out to preserve their privilege (the military) and those who want radical change.

“The military and the deep state have strong regional and international allies also seeking a soft landing for the former regime. Unless the revolutionary forces reawaken, the narrow chance for democracy in Sudan will be lost,” he said.