Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 31 December 2018

Sudan: The rationale behind Popular Protest Movement (PPM)


By Adeeb Yousif

Since December 19th 2018, thousands of protestors have taken part in protests taking place across different cities in Sudan due to rising prices, and shortages of basic commodities, especially bread and fuel, amongst other grievances. However, the Popular Protest Movement (PPM) demands has quickly developed calling President Bashir’s regime a ‘failing one’ and demanded his departure with shouts of ‘Bashir has to go.’ The Sudanese security agencies have responded aggressively toward the PPM - so far at least 39 people have been killed, further 601 people wounded, and 94 people were arrested (38 of them were students from Darfur). They were arrested from their houses in Sinnar city, and 10 were also arrested on Friday, December 28th in Eldroshab city. Both groups endured torture based on their racial background.

Daniel Berrigan in his poem entitled SOME, asked a foundational question: “Why do you stand?” they were asked, and “Why do you walk?”
“Because of the children,” they said, and
“Because of the heart, and
“Because of the bread,”
“Because the cause is the heart’s beat, and
the children born, and the risen bread.”

The government of Sudan (GoS) decided to end subsidies for basic commodities and the price of bread triple, the inflation rate is at about 70 per cent, which led to rising prices, shortages of food, fuel, and cash. Life is becoming extremely difficult for ordinary citizens to make a living. These are symptoms of bad policies which led to this situation. Lack of basic human needs such as food, water, education, medicine, psychosocial needs, recognition, and belonging. For these needs, people are ready to protests and to be killed. There is nothing to explain this situation better than the Human Needs Theory. This theory starts with the assumption that if basic human needs cannot be met, it will be impossible to move beyond conflict to a place where it will be possible to think about others. According to the theory of Protracted Social Conflict, a person’s basic human needs must be met in order for resolution to be possible. Not only do these needs apply to the basic human survival needs, they also cater to a person’s need of security, identity, and cultural fulfilment.

There is an ancient proverb that said, “a hungry man is an angry man.” It is the wisdom of the old that explains that the person who is deprived of basic needs will not remain calm. Therefore the Popular Protest Movement (PPM) will continue as long as there are “hungry men.” I can see the situation is in full agreement with Relative Deprivation theory which is the discrepancy between what people think they deserve, and what they actually think they can get. A certain level of discrepancy can be tolerated, but as the gap widens the risk of violence increases. Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” It seems to me as though he was speaking about peace agreements in Sudan. The Government of Sudan has been using conspiracy theories over and over to maintain and remain in power by mobilizing some supporters. This time around there is limited in no chance to use the same theory.

Many Sudanese have been rejecting the idea of Israel intervening in these ongoing Popular Protest Movement (PPM) protests. The government storyline is “A Darfurian rebel organized this PPM with Israeli intelligence to overthrow the government in Khartoum.” The grounded reality is that ordinary people in different parts of Sudan are dying due to lack of basic commodities, no respect for human dignity, wrong policies, discrimination, power manipulation and so on. This led to the conflicts in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kurdufan. Masses are frustrated with the current regime and they have been looking for an alternative. This condition can be better explained by Frustration Aggression Theory. This theory expresses a correlation between frustration and aggression where there is a link between frustration as pathetic and aggression in response, as is the essence of this theory in the following: first, all the frustrations increase the likelihood of an aggressive reaction. Second, all aggression presupposes the existence of frustration earlier.

Today, Sudan is experiencing its most challenging time since its independence in 1956. The political, social and economic situation has been rapidly changing, regrettably for the worse. Crimes and corruption, which represent the true enemy to peace and democracy, have reached maximum levels. The civilian population has been paying the price of the protracted conflict across Sudan resulting in the devastating loss of generations. Indigenous people are losing their identity and dignity and are turning towards crime and drugs in ever-increasing numbers. The people are systematically losing their lands and are undergoing demographic changes as the direct result of forced migration. Middle class, everyday people are now unable to feed themselves. Politically, major divisions exist among the opposition groups, civil society, and the community at large. There is a lack of a clear, united political vision. Self-interest, multiple ideologies, and tribal mobilization are just some of the factors that have led groups to fragment. These divisions have helped to create a “negative ethnicity”; namely, blind tribalism, fanaticism, regional and religious intolerance, along with tribal agglomeration exemplify some of the major impediments to peace, political transformation, and democracy in Sudan. In such situations, a Popular Protest Movement (PPM) is not only essential, but it is a requisite in order to restore peace and security and to rebuild the torn social fabric of the community in Sudan. Efforts must be put together to transform the violent conflict into peaceful coexistence and peaceful relations between communities, confidence needs to be restored, and strong political will of the leadership is needed to facilitate genuine dialogue and to create cooperation between the conflicting parties; reconciliation processes should take place and justice and rule of law should be maintained.

Adeeb Yousif, Ph.D. is Conflict Analysis and Resolution Scholar Practitioner. He is the Founding President of World Peace & Reconciliation (WP&R). He can be reached at aabdela2@gmu.edu

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