On the fateful morning of April 15, 2023 a resounding gunshot of unknown origin tore through the air, piercing the flesh of a furious soldier. Its thunderous echo reverberated, serving as an unmistakable signal for the insurgent troops of the counter-revolution to descend upon the cities of Sudan. Two warlords of two army fractions, igniting the flames of this brutal conflict, had long harbored animosity towards the December Revolution, which triumphantly ousted their predecessor in 2019.
Originally conceived as a peaceful uprising, the December Revolution bore a solitary plea: the cessation of Omar al-Bashir’s interminable dictatorship. Yet, as time unfolded, the once-timid demand metamorphosed into an unyielding cry for “full civilian power,” a fervent aspiration to eradicate the pervasive influence of the military in the public sphere. Like an alchemical process, the revolution assimilated the Sudanese people’s profound suffering and evolved into a mature political quest for freedom, peace, and justice.
As the demands grew more radical, an extraordinary leadership emerged, hitherto unprecedented in Sudanese history: the Sudanese Resistance Committee. In an era devoid of conventional parties and organizations, this avant-garde leadership captivated the nation. Moreover, they presented a groundbreaking model of territorial solidarity that built along neighborhoods, which rescued Sudan from the precipice of succumbing to the perils of tribalism and ethnic divisions masquerading as political formations.
During the dark era of al-Bashir’s rule, Sudan found itself on the precipice of disintegration. Exploiting age-old tribal and native administrative structures inherited from the colonial era, al-Bashir and the Sudanese army orchestrated a web of manipulation. They established various paramilitary groups, transforming them into ruthless instruments of oppression whose purpose was to subjugate rural Sudan and plunder its inhabitants for their own gain. These forces morphed into monstrous entities that served as loyal henchmen to al-Bashir and his cohorts— a tactic in the playbook of every Sudanese dictatorship taught to them by their British colonial masters.
When al-Bashir was finally ousted, he left behind a distorted security apparatus that had been meticulously crafted to safeguard his own interests and those of his loyal cadre of officers. It was this very security system that played a pivotal role in suppressing the revolutionary spirit and the remarkable new leadership that had emerged in the December Revolution. Their first act was to seize power through a military coup on October 25th, 2021, plunging the nation into the clutches of militarism. However, after a year and a half of counter-revolutionary governance, the malformed structure inherited from al-Bashir catapulted Sudan’s societal crises into a direct confrontation—the dreaded specter of war that continues today. This was a conflict that the revolutionary forces had sought to avert through peaceful political means. And now, here we stand, with a militarized Sudan erecting bloody obstacles standing defiantly in the path of Sudan’s future and its revolutionary forces. We find ourselves grappling with the pressing question: how will these forces of revolution navigate and overcome the treacherous terrain that lies ahead?
At the forefront of this revolutionary movement stands the Neighborhood Resistance Committees (also referred to as the “Resistance Committees”), decentralized grassroots organizations that assumed the burden of revolutionary leadership when a coalition of reformist parties failed to achieve the demands of the revolution. Following a successful sit-in in front of the military headquarters, the Resistance Committees efficiently organized themselves within the neighborhoods, representing a new form of collective action that arose from a deep understanding of Sudan’s historical problems, particularly the issues of militarized and centralized power. The Resistance Committees have opened the door for broader political participation, spreading geographically to more areas of Sudan, facilitating increased involvement from civilians.
During the initial years of the post-Bashir transitional period, the Resistance Committees established a resilient network that kept the revolutionary demands alive. Unfortunately, their efforts have been undermined by political parties and the international community while also enduring brutality from military factions. Despite these challenges, a climate of determination fueled the Resistance Committees’ resilience. When the military assumed power once again on October 25th 2021, betraying the parties that had shared power with them, the Resistance Committees took to the streets in an organized manner, chanting the three “no slogans”: no negotiation, no partnership, no legitimacy.
During this period, Resistance Committees across Sudan collaborated in drafting a charter that provided a guiding compass for the movement. A crucial element of the charter emphasized the decentralization of power and the radical transformation of the state apparatus, intended to be built from the bottom up, with the aim of enhancing democracy.
This radical evolution of the movement compelled the reformist political parties to pursue another agreement with the military. However, the military forces and their militias, disenchanted with the process, sought to manipulate the parties for their own benefit. The UN special envoy in Sudan intervened in the power struggle, overlooking the demands of the Resistance Committees and their charter. Unfortunately, the unresolved dispute between the army and the militias eventually spiraled into a brutal conflict—a scenario the Resistance Committees had warned against.
Since the inception of the revolution, the revolutionary forces have remained steadfast in their commitment to peaceful means of protest. This commitment stems from a political understanding of the delicate nature of Sudan’s social contract and the grave concern over the potential escalation into a widespread ethnic conflict that violence could trigger. Despite enduring state violence, the Resistance Committees have played a crucial role in upholding this peaceful revolution. They have also organized themselves beyond ethnic divisions and stood against the politicization of tribal identities.
However, the ongoing war initiated by the two generals is posing a significant challenge to this progressive development. As I write this article, there is an alarming mobilization along tribal lines in Sudan to support the two warring factions, a concerning development that undermines the unity and peaceful objectives of the revolution.
To address the trauma of war and safeguard the revolution, the Resistance Committees have actively pursued two primary objectives. Firstly, they have dedicated efforts to building an anti-war coalition and clarifying the narrative surrounding the conflict. Their emphasis lies in highlighting that the war primarily stems from a power struggle between the generals and does not serve the interests of democratic transformation. This approach aims to counter any misinterpretations that could undermine the revolution’s goals.Secondly, the Resistance Committees have taken a revolutionary approach by establishing emergency response rooms. These rooms serve as vital support systems to help individuals absorb the trauma caused by the war and alleviate the hardships faced by civilians. This initiative is a testament to the Resistance Committees’ commitment to assume state responsibilities and organizing social relationships through mutual solidarity and revolutionary practices. By providing essential aid and fostering a sense of collective support, these response rooms play a crucial role in easing suffering and improving the daily lives of those affected by the conflict.
To support this movement, it is vital to endorse its objectives and emphasize its narrative within Sudan and around the world. The war poses a significant obstacle to the Sudanese revolution, as it has the potential to shift the political narrative and undermine the progressive forces of the December Revolution. However, this movement has demonstrated its ability to overcome obstacles over the past four years. It is essential to support it until the end, and if it faces defeat, the revolutionary forces must learn a valuable lesson from it.
- IMAGE CREDITS
SudanUprising Germany (2023).