The Sudanese Revolution (2018-2019)

12 April, 2021

The ACRPS Democratic Transition Series has published Ahmed Ibrahim Abushouk's book The Sudanese Revolution (2018-2019), analytically documenting the December 2018 revolution that toppled President Omar Bashir and some elements of the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation. Having ruled Sudan since 1989, Bashir stood down on 11 April 2019, when the Supreme Security Committee announced that it would remove the head of the regime and stand with the revolution.

The book navigates the negotiations that took place between the revolutionary leadership (the Forces of Freedom and Change) and the Supreme Security Committee leadership (at the time represented by the Military Council), explaining how they facilitated the drafting of the constitutional document that became the legal reference for the transitional government structures, political priorities, and legislative, executive and judicial competencies. Moreover, the book looks at the challenges facing the transitional period (2019-2022), in comparison with earlier democratic transition experiences in Sudan. It considers the complex political and military situation threatened by regional attempts to exploit the economic crisis for political influence and financial gain.

Dr Azmi Bishara provides the introduction to the book, which includes seven chapters and a conclusion, noting that the Sudanese revolution initiated the second wave of the Arab revolutions. It was followed by the Algerian revolution, the revolutionary movements in Lebanon and against the sectarian system and corruption in Iraq. The first chapter presents an analytical approach to the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation led Government (1989-2019), its intellectual and political foundations, the causal factors behind the 2018 revolution, the role of the revolutionary actor and the mechanisms of their peaceful struggle against the ruling regime. The author demonstrates the inability of the regime to continue tightening its grip on the public and highlights the unprecedented increase in public discontent against the regime.

The second chapter documents the events of the Sudanese revolution from its first outbreak in the city of Damazin in Blue Nile state on 13 December 2018 until the end of the month, which formed a dividing line between the spontaneous revolutionary protests and the Forces of Freedom and Change on 1 January 2019. The author goes on in the third chapter to explain that in order to achieve the goal of establishing a sustainable democratic regime that perpetuates freedom, peace and justice, the revolutionaries practiced various forms of protests, including demonstrations, daily processions, strikes, and sit-ins in public squares, despite the excessive violence practiced by the security services against the protesters. The Sudanese Professionals Association, under the supervision of the Forces of Freedom and Change, played an important role in organizing daily demonstrations, and in conducting periodic processions with political slogans and innovative demands, and attracting the aspirations of diverse revolutionary youth. In confronting these escalating challenges, the government could not see beyond a security outlook and held itself hostage to the personal ambition associated with keeping Omar Bashir in power. This is why political decision-makers and the ruling party were unable to present any convincing political solutions to the protesters. The television and print media in Sudan were also unable to truly portray public opinion.

The fourth chapter presents an analytical approach to the transformation of the “Sudan One Nation” parade on 6 April 2019 into a revolutionary sit-in in front of the military headquarters, seeking to remove Bashir from power, without condition or limitations. This chapter answers a number of central questions: How did the procession turn into a sit-in? What was the new political agenda suggested during the sit-in? What are the challenges that the protesters faced on the ground? What political and social values did the sit-in establish? What prompted the ruling military council at the time to forcibly disperse the sit-in, two days before Eid al-Fitr in 2019? The fifth chapter explores the initiatives presented by political and professional personalities and entities before toppling the regime, analysing their political and professional backgrounds and common unifying characteristics. This chapter also deals with the negotiation process after the overthrow of the regime and the subsequent complications up until the dispersal of the sit-in.

Chapter Six discusses the process of negotiations in the aftermath of the sit-in dispersal, and the role of the African Union representative in converging views between the military council and the Forces of Freedom and Change and persuading these parties to return to the negotiating table. This led to a political agreement and the drafting of a constitutional document and established the transitional authority structure and capacity. On the other hand, Chapter Seven deals with the transitional government’s bodies and powers, in accordance with the provisions of the constitutional document for the transitional period for 2019. It explores the governments formation according to the time frame that the two parties agreed upon, and the nature of the challenges facing it. The author concludes that the previously mentioned challenges constitute, without controversy, several obstacles to achieving a smooth democratic transition. Overcoming such challenges requires a national strategic vision, initiated by the transitional government and agreed upon by the social and political forces active in Sudanese society. Finally, the conclusion compares the current transitional period (2019-2022) with the two previous transitions (1964-1965 and 1985-1986). The author lays out how previous mistakes can be learned from to overcome current challenges. 

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