Lessons from Sudan

Following months of protests, the incumbent Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir was placed under house arrest on April 11, as the country prepared for a transitional government and parley for next government started.

The Sudanese uprising, termed as “bread protest,” was triggered by a rise in inflation on December 19 last year, and is acutely reminiscent of another momentous event in history, the French Revolution, where the protest against rising bread price by peasants was a big contributing factor; and resulted in an infamous but contested quote, ‘Let them have cake.’

Sudanese protestors camped in front of the compound housing the military and security services in central Khartoum, thereafter, for many days and refused to budge until the army finally relented and removed Bashir.

The protest was more than just an uprising against a struggling economy or the price of bread – They have been calling for freedom, peace, justice and the downfall of the regime, a commentator noted. “Tasqut bas!” – Just fall, that’s all – was a commonly-used slogan.

Bashir assumed power on June 30, 1989, in a military coup, amid a long civil war between Sudan’s north and south, and ruled the country for nearly 30 years with an iron hand.

Post-Bashir transition, however, has been anything, but smooth. Tensions are mounting between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and an alliance of protest and opposition groups, as they disagree on “handover of power to civilians.” The latest flare-up occurred on June 1 and at least two people were killed and many wounded near the site of a protest according to media reports.

As the stalemate continues, two key lessons – one positive, another negative – can be inferred and be contextualised into the state of affairs in Nagaland.

The positive take away is regarding the constituents of the protestors. One of the main protagonists is the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), having its roots to October 2016, when an alliance charter was drafted and approved by three of Sudan’s largest professional groups – the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, the Sudanese Journalists Network, and the Democratic Lawyers Association. Since then, 17 professional bodies have either backed or are officially under the umbrella of the SPA, as per the information on the association’s website.

A look into the constituents shows that most of them are teachers, doctors and other health workers, journalists, engineers, artists, agriculturist, lawyers and other working professionals – not necessarily independent private entities but mostly assumed to be on the government’s payroll.

Accordingly, it goes to demonstrate that standing up for justice, freedom, rights and common welfare of the society, is not prerogative of activists alone, but a collective effort – regardless of one’s occupation.

Nevertheless, the rising tension post-toppling of the erstwhile president, also points to the crucial requirement of a ‘post-conflict’ template beforehand, notwithstanding the outcome.

While the Sudanese protest resonated with all section of society and some “powerful generals and opposition leaders have agreed in principle to the formation of a joint civilian-military council to lead the country’s political transition,” tensions still persist, with the danger of imperilling the whole process.

Devoid of such template, there are hazards of vested interest taking advantage of the lacuna, and changing the course of movement from the original trajectories. History is replete with such post-revolution state of affairs, which presently hangs ominously over Sudan.