The Sudanese Revolution: A modern day lesson of social cohesion and nation building

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Sudanese demonstrators march with national flags as they gather during a rally demanding a civilian body to lead the transition to democracy, outside the army headquarters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Saturday, April 13, 2019. The military overthrew President Omar al-Bashir on Thursday after almost four months of protests calling for an end to his nearly 30-year rule. (AP Photo)

 It’s difficult, and almost unjustifiable, to describe the recent events in Sudan as a mere velvet revolution. Despite the wide perception that the latter political change in Sudan has eventuated in a seemingly non-violent way, the reality is that a considerable amount of blood has run in the street of Khartoum before securing the success of the revolution. Accordingly, the Sudanese revolution, that started in December last year and culminated in 11 of April 2019 by ousting of the former president Omer Al-Bashir, is far from being velvet.

Apart from its significance as a distinguished modern day experience of toppling an obstinate dictatorship that lasted for a near thirty years, the Sudanese revolution constitutes a social phenomenon in its own right. The young revolutionaries of Sudan kept on repetitively emphasizing that their revolution is essentially about consciousness and reform of misconceptions rather than an unassuming political change.

Contrary to what has been widely publicized in the international media, the Sudanese revolution was not simply about bread. Although it’s impossible to exclude the dire living difficulties as one of the driving forces behind the revolution, it was certainly not the sole motive. This claim is reinforced by the fact that the vast majority of the youngsters who led the uprising were from a middle class strata, which is often perceived as the least affected by the hardship of living.

From a historical perspective, it should be pointed out that Sudan has preceded many African and Arab nations in overthrowing military dictatorships through peaceful means. In October 1964, the Sudanese masses successfully overthrow the regime of the late president Mohamed Ibrahim Abboud. Similarly, the April 1985 uprising resulted in ousting former president Gaafar Mohamed Al-Nimeiri. More recently, in April 2019, by the fall of Al-Bashir, the curtains were finally drawn on the longest dictatorship in the modern history.

Undoubtedly, the most striking aspects of the recent Sudanese revolution was its ability to create a social cohesion and restore confidence among the youth and women. As the renowned South African journalist, William Gumede, has rightfully articulated: Sudan’s brave women have been the pillar of the Arab Spring style popular protests which successfully ended Omer Al-Bashir’s 30 years iron fisted role. The same sentiments were echoed by Omar Ushari, a young leader who has been in detention since December 2018 and released after the fall of President al-Bashir, who told gathering protesters of how the security forces often expressed fear of the ferocity of the Sudanese women and their ever-emerging role in mobilizing the masses.

Any discussion around the recent Sudanese revolution would be utterly incomplete without mentioning the term “kandaka”, which was the title of the ruling Nubian queens in the ancient Kushitic Kingdom of Meroe. The revolution has beautifully re-invoked that term to suite the modern day heroines of Sudan. This notion was emphasized by the widely circulated image of Alaa Salah, a 22-year-old engineering student, wearing a traditional Sudanese attire (toub), urging crowds of protesters to revolt.

In her post on the events in Sudan, former Reuter correspondent, Opheera McDoom, eloquently described the spirit of collaboration during the sit-in at the headquarters of the Ministry of Defence. She shed a light on how the young revolutionaries have efficiently distributed food, cleaned the rubbish, picked up trash, supervise the patients and organized checkpoints to ensure no one get through with weapons.

Undoubtedly, the most spectacular scene happened during Friday prayers, that held at the protest site on 12 April 2019, when the young Coptic Christians carried huge plastic sheet, as a giant umbrella, to protects their fellow Muslims from the blazing heat while performing prayer.

In conclusion, the recent revolution has certainly strengthened the beaten-down sense of national pride among the young people of Sudan. A similar wave of pride has also engulfed the Sudanese diaspora. Further, instead of the bleak images of the war in Darfur, a photo of the iconic Alaa Salah has dominated the front pages of the global media. However, a long walk is still waiting for Sudan, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.


Mohamed Yousif Albadawi is a Sudanese citizen based in Arcadia, Pretoria, South Africa.