December 19, 2016 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese activists Monday launched a new general strike against the government of President Omer al-Bashir who is in power since more than 27 years.
Reached by Sudan Tribune, Ahmed Hussein Adam a Sudanese activist, now a University Researcher, says the calls for general strikes in the country on 27 November and 19 December constitute a turning point in the efforts of Sudanese people to achieve democratic change in the country since 30 June 1989.
Regardless of the immediate impact of the event, Adam pointed to the importance of the protests saying that the Sudanese street is for the first time feels confident enough to challenge the regime and to achieve change by themselves.
In the interview hereunder Adam, speaks about the reaction of the regime and the opposition alike to this "third way movement in Sudan". He also speaks about its impact on the regime and warns against the experience of Egyptian activists who toppled the regime of President Hosni Mubarak but failed eventually to build a democratic regime.
Hereafter, the full text of the interview with Ahmed H Adam, a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for African Development, Cornell University. Former Co-chair of the Two Sudans Project at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University in New York.
A third way movement has emerged in Sudan
Whatever the percentage of the success or failure of the Sudan’s civil disobedience might be, the ongoing popular protest action has drastically changed the rules of the game of the Sudanese politics. Sudan will never be the same again. The current civil action has united the Sudanese people across the country and given them confidence to take the initiative for changing their country. The civil disobedience is getting momentum by day. Both ordinary people and opposition forces have been joining the movement every day. Activists on the ground have proved by images and photos how the streets were empty: university campus were deserted and shops were closed today across Sudan,
Nevertheless, people should consider the civil disobedience as a part of process of resistance and popular protest against the regime: it is not one or two events!
The Sudanese people’s message is loud and clear: they want Bashir’s departure and a meaningful change in their country; status quo cannot be sustained anymore. The protest will greatly impact the regime’s survival tactics, the opposition forces’ performance, as well as the international community’s approach and policy on Sudan.
The Sudan’s civil disobedience that has been launched by the youth groups on social media, spread throughout Sudan in November (27-29), and continued on the 19 of December marks the birth of the new third way movement in Sudan. It is a social media and a grass-roots movement which is under shaping. It is neither political nor ideological in nature. A cutting-aged pragmatic movement that has been influenced by the globalization. Most of the organizers of this wave of protest movement are the young youth who were born under the Bashir’s regime that seized power from the democratically elected government in June 1989. However, the emergence of the current protest movement is clear and ultimate rejection to the agedly, corrupt, bankrupt and autocratic regime of Bashir.
On the other hand, these youth groups are disillusioned and dissatisfied with the poor performance of the traditional opposition forces, which have failed to realize the needed change and create a credible alternative to Bashir’s regime.
Who are the organizers of the civil disobedience?
Like their Tunisian and Egyptian counterparts, during the events of the Arab Spring in 2011, the organizers and leaders of the Sudan’s civil disobedience are still anonymous. It is true that some of them constantly appear on social media, however, no structures or detailed political program have emerged yet. The organizers are diverse groups, including the former youth groups who organized the protest of September 2013, college students and some youth who are affiliated to the opposition forces inside the country. However, these youth groups are mostly from Khartoum and some urban areas of Sudan.
The regime and the Civil Disobedience
The civil disobedience has scared and shaken the core of the regime. The desperation and fear were clear in Bashir’s rhetoric and actions during the course of the last three weeks. Bashir dismissed the organizers of the civil disobedience as cowards who hide behind the “keyboards”, and that he would never hand over the fate of Sudan to traitors of the “WhatsApp and Facebook”.
One of the interesting things in this regard, the regime for the first time celebrated the occasion of the declaration of the Sudan’s independence from the parliament on 19 December 1955. The regime did purposely to spoil and counter the civil disobedience of 19 December. Bashir’s NISS also arrested dozens of opposition leaders and activists.
There is murmuring among the regime’s civil and military cadres and supporters, many of them perceive Bashir as liability. Many sources confirmed that some power circles within the regime had supported the two phases of the civil disobedience.
How will the regime respond? Scenarios of the regime’s response tactics?
First, Bashir will move swiftly to form his so-called broad national government from the participants of his national dialogue. Bashir is desperate, therefore, he intends to shift the conversation and discourse from the civil disobedience to his national dialogue and formation of the new government. Bashir may also indicate his interest in reviving the Road Map, that just for the sake of buying time and changing the current conversation in Sudan. We should read this with imminent visit of Thabo Mbeki, the head of the AUHIP Panel to Khartoum.
Second, Some regional players, such as the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates(Bashir’s new allies and financiers) who have huge investments in Sudan; they may put forward an initiative of soft landing for Bashir that could include the departure of Bashir in return of immunity from the ICC’s prosecution. However, the ICC’s Darfur case is not subject for such political deals.
Third. Bashir could also stage a place coup by one of his loyalists within the army, in order to save himself and abort any real change. A real coup by some disillusioned by some mid-ranking officers could also occur.
Fourth, Bashir may copy Bashar Asaad’s survival tactics by unleashing extremist and terrorist groups to present himself as a traditional Arab/African regime that fights against international terrorism, so that he could get international support and stay in power.
Fifth, if the current civil disobedience takes the shape of a protest on the street Bashir may use the Janjaweed and other militia to crackdown on peaceful protesters, as in September 2013, when more than 200 peaceful demonstrators were killed by Bashir’s security forces and militias.
Civil disobedience and the opposition forces
Just like the regime, the traditional opposition forces were taken by surprise by the new wave of protest. It is clear that the opposition forces did not learn the lessons of the protest of the September 2013 that was organized by the youth groups. However, the opposition forces have issued statements in supporting the civil disobedience and given the full credit for the anonymous youth groups for organizing it. However, the opposition forces need to move beyond statements and political declarations. if they want to be relevant. The opposition forces should move swiftly to work with the organizers of the protest to a forge a broad coalition and credible alternative to the Bashir’s regime.
I expect the momentum of the civil disobedience to increase and enter new phases and stages. The organizers have gotten huge confidence and popular support across the country. The youth groups have broken the so-called wall of fear; they are at the offence. Youth groups and ordinary have taken the initiative for change. The regime is so shaky and scared. Bashir desperately called on the youth groups to appear on the streets to teach them a lesson, as he did in September 2013. However, I do not expect the civil disobedience to be transformed into a full-fledge street movement at this stage. The mobilization will continue and new steps and time-line will be announced soon. If the momentum continues the regime may fragment, some regime’s power circles may get rid of Bashir who considered he big liability!
To realize a successful change, the organizers need to forge a broad alliance that includes all the victims of the regime and those who have a real interest in change in Sudan. It is imperative that while Sudanese are struggling to change the Bashir’s regime, they should prepare for the day after. Wael Ghonim, one of the iconic Egyptian social media revolutionaries during the Arab Spring in 2011, told Thomas Friedman in his piece “Social Media: Destroyer or Creator? That they succeeded in ousting Mubarak’s regime, but they failed to build the democratic alternative that they dreamed of. We need to learn from their experience.
The international community should acknowledge that its so-called constructive engagement policy on Sudan has failed. Therefore, it must change its approach and policy on Sudan; it should support real change and its agents in Sudan.
The international community should use the current momentum that has been created by the civil disobedience to press the regime to allow a fresh and meaningful transition in Sudan. Sudan needs an orderly and peaceful change to evade the scenario of chaos and fragmentation that will have precarious impact on the regional security and stability. The international community should also pressure the regime to stop the ongoing violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws in Sudan. It should also immediately release all political detainees.