The Youth Revolution in Sudan: Capable of bringing down the Inghaz regime?

Published: 8 Oct 2013
By: Ali Agab

Ali Agab is a Sudanese human rights activist

As I decided to put these thoughts on paper, I remembered Dr John Garang’s aphorism, “there is no smoke without fire, except in Sudan.” Despite the enormous efforts of Sudanese pro-democracy and justice activists, the Inghaz regime (under which Bashir has ruled Sudan since 1989, first as the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation and later as the National Congress Party) has so far been able to forestall real change. However, the latest protests in Khartoum show not only the bravery of the Sudanese youth leading them, but also the weakness of the current regime. It has left activists asking whether this may finally be the beginning of the end of the regime.

I found myself driven to honour the unfettered determination shown by Sudanese youth in the struggle for change and freedom and democracy. It is ironic that it is the youth who are now organising Sudan’s third intifada (or revolution), are the same generation that the Inghaz regime claims to have saved with its “civilisation project.” When the Inghaz regime took power 24 years ago, it did so with the claim that it had toppled the democratically elected rulers in order to apply God’s law in Sudan. Rather than bringing virtue, it has brought international charges against the president for commission of the most notorious international crimes (genocide) against his own peoples as well as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It is true that the Islamists came to power as a united group, driven by the delusional dream of Hassan Al Turabi. Despite his success in mobilizing young people to follow his Jihadist ideas and engaged them in a bloody “holy war” in South Sudan, which his successors later stretched by to Darfur, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, he failed to hold control of this military apparatus. Soon, the regime split dramatically into two parties, the National Congress and the Popular Congress. Strikingly, but not surprisingly, both of the new parties abandoned the use of Islam in their names, revealing to the Sudanese that their commitment is not to Islam, but rather to wealth and power.

Since the spilt of Al Turabi from the Inghaz regime, the two factions have built their political strategies on the fact that the Sudanese people have become aware of the nature of the regime. They stopped claiming that their mission is to fight for sharia and Islam, accepting that their political agenda and economically motivated wars are poorly hidden by their religious dress. One might have expected the youth to be the main supporters of the Inghaz regime, given that they were born and lived their whole lives under Islamist rule. One might have expected them to be brain-washed by the regime. These young people have no direct experience of democratic rule in Sudan to help them to formulate their dreams for change. But nonetheless it is the youth who are leading the charge.

This is all the more impressive when one considers that over 24 years Islamists have ruled the country with blood and iron, using all means at their disposal to dismantle rational thinking. They have drained the schooling system, converting it to Khalawi (a local primitive religious education system), sacking qualified teachers and dismissing all secular university lecturers. Nevertheless, they failed to close the horizon of knowledge, which is an integral part of the human being. People are equipped with a brain and facultative reasoning, no power can stop them from exploring and criticising all surrounding thoughts and beliefs. These challenges have been reinforced by the spread of the technical revolution, making it easier for youth to access critical ideas.

Secondly, I wish to pay my respects for the great losses suffered by hundreds of young people in the last two weeks. The power of youth has been proven by the recent revolutions they led and organised all around the Arab world. This new, inspired generation has put their own signature on Sudan’s political movement during the last five years through the emergence of the new political organisations such as Grifna, Sudan Change Now, etc. The new movements have added new organisational tactics and experiences in terms of daily operations and communications allowing them to effectively reach their target audiences. They have used new technology and tactics in communicating their political goals.

The use of live ammunition against these peaceful demonstrators and the use of excessive force by the police, security and Islamist militias, has highlighted the pattern of massacres committed against school students in Nyala last year and the Port Sudan and Kajbar massacres before that. These crimes were easily committed and covered up with full impunity because the regime believed that you can kill at random as long as the capital is secure. Now the regime is forced to use the same tactics it used in the peripheries in the capital, a sign that it is now entering its final battle for survival. It seems that Omar Al Bashir has decided to end his regime in the Ghadafi style.

I believe that the Inghaz regime is less capable of surviving now than before. There is a tendency to unleash violence as a last resort, but the regime is running out of money to pay those who have committed violence on their behalf. Will we soon witness high ranking figures in the regime jumping out of the sinking boat? Will the youth be able to bring the regime to its knees? In case they are, let us begin to come together as Sudanese and reflect how we can rebuild our beloved country.

Regions: North and Horn of Africa, Sudan
Type: IRRI Blog