Photo Credit: The Hill
Sudan’s mounting political tension over the years, a revolution, and several attempts at military coups have ultimately reached a peak on October 25th, 2021, in a coup orchestrated by the Military General Abdel Fattah Burhan, the Chair of the transitional government. The coup was made public after Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, his wife Muna Abdalla, and several cabinet ministers, like the Minister of Industry and the governor of Khartoum, were arrested by military officials from their homes. General Burhan went further to dissolve the existing transitional government and declare a state of emergency.
According to General Burhan, this military coup was vital in order to avoid a civil war due to mounting tension and increasing factions within the military and civilian Sovereign Council. Tensions between the two parties have increased heavily since the pro-democracy revolution, pioneered by the youth, which lasted from 2018 to 2019. During this revolution, former military officer and President Omar Al Bashir’s government was overthrown after 30 years. This revolution was triggered by several factors but the worsening economic state of the country, which was rapidly raising the cost of living, was the final straw. The military overthrew Al Bashir and occupied office. Even though the military had state authority, they were not able to run the state as desired by Sudanese citizens. Civilians demonstrated and lobbied for a democratic civilian government, which led to civilian political parties and the military signing a new constitution, which had the provision for the formation of a transitional government known as the Sovereign Council. This council would allow for power-sharing between the military and civilian politicians with an end goal of a free and fair election by the end of 2023.
The current arrest of Prime Minister Hamdok and other government officials led to masses of Sudanese youths taking to the streets demanding the release of their prime minister. They marched the streets with posters stating their political demands and used their minimal access to social media to leverage support using trending hashtags like “#eyesonsudan” and “#sudancoup.” The civilian response to the coup prompted General Burhan to manage the growing civil unrest by blocking all main entrances into Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, cutting off internet and network access, and deploying military personnel to the streets to ‘contain’ civilian protests. Unfortunately, as of November 1st, the death toll was reported to be at least 12 with many more casualties.
Despite the lack of internet access and military interference, on October 30th a March of Millions was mobilized where four million citizens took to the streets to show national unity against the military coup. This was backed by strikes from trade unions and bank workers who also took to the streets to protest. Unfortunately, even this march was met with force from the military and led to several casualties and deaths of civilians.
The military’s power-grabbing attempt has faced a lot of backlash from several countries and international organizations. On October 27th, the African Union suspended Sudan from all activities within this union until the Sovereign Council (Transitional government) is reinstated. The United States of America and the World Bank have both suspended aid to Sudan with similar demands to the African Union. Other consequences have been the closure of the Khartoum International Airport along with the suspension of international flights to Sudan.
In spite of this tense political season in Sudan’s quest to establish a democratic and civilian government, the people of Sudan have been an awe-inspiring example of a collective who are intentional about pushing and fighting for the change that they want to see in their country- especially the youth. They have shown up in the streets in marveling numbers with their flags, pro-democracy slogans, and chants ready to destabilize the institutions and individuals that are preventing the state’s development. One key lesson to take away from Sudan’s political story is that there is power in numbers, but there is also such great power and potential concentrated within the youth. The youths of Sudan have been a true example of being and lobbying for the change that they want to see, which can be a lesson to all of us to be the change we want to see.