Last year, Sudan was shaken when workers, youth and oppressed women took to the streets after the hated al-Bashir regime (of the ruling National Congress Party) doubled the prices of food, fuel and cooking gas on 23 September 2013 by cancelling the fuel subsidy. The protesters chanted slogans like: "The people want the departure of the regime!" and "Freedom, Freedom!"
The protesters were met with huge and violent repression from the police, who used live ammunition and tear gas. Activists and doctors at a Khartoum hospital said that over 170 people were killed by the regime, including at least 15 children, with many more injured. Police arrested over 1,000 people from several cities and violently carried out house-to-house security sweeps. Human rights groups estimated that dozens remained in detention without charges because of their connections with the protests and presumed political opinions.
The government imposed a media blackout. Newspapers have had print issues confiscated and some were forced to stop publishing. This prompted a group of journalists to call for a general strike. Internet access has also been blocked.
On the surface, the regime seemed to ride out the protests. The capital city, Khartoum, is quiet. Its residents stepped back from further protesting due to state violence. But in some other cities there demonstrations taking place. The parliament has officially announced the withdrawal of fuel subsides and more increases in prices of food are taking place. The government has had a ministerial reshuffle. But the regime has been weakened. Opposition parties, based inside and outside Sudan, have been working hard to remove the Al-Bashir regime. Significantly, many new youth and women’s groups have been established and are active.
At the end of January, President Al-Bashir addressed the nation in the presence of a number of politicians. However, he was shaky and the aim of his speech was not clear. This resulted in the public and opposition politicians mocking him for the lack of clarity of his speech. People were left to wonder about the fragmented foundation of the current regime.
Recent events have further exposed the regime and revealed the depth of the crises and disintegration, while also showing that it is no longer protected by its security and state terroristic solutions. The regime’s desperate call for dialogue with some opposition parties and movements is laughable. It is an attempt by the regime to extricate itself from crises after discovering that people are rejecting it - there is an escalation by youth movements’ to overthrow the regime.
The continuation of a court trial of last September’s protesters is the clearest evidence of the falsity of the allegations and that the regime has not made a genuine call for dialogue but is continuing its repressive policy and tyranny. On February 17-18 the Criminal Court of Alkalakla South witnessed the trial of seven of last September’s protesters where the charges were fabricated and they were forced to make false confessions under torture (as in the trial of student Alnazeer Ismail, they were forced to sign the statements. The sentencing hearing was set for 13 March.
These young people are being tried in a hostile atmosphere and charged with criminal offences in complete absence of the most basic principles of justice. These trials represent conclusive evidence that the regime is failing in its gestures of having a dialogue and reconciliation (which are responded to only by some of the fragmented opposition groups that are driven by the personal interests of their leaders). The regime must be dreaming if they thought this theatrical dialogue will prolong their rule for long. This corrupt regime will inevitably continue in its policy of unfair trials, keeping protesters languishing in prison and carrying out repression, intimidation and arrests, while, at the same time, calling for dialogue and understanding.
On Tuesday 11 March security forces cracked down on peaceful student demonstrations at University of Khartoum campus which were organized by the Union of Darfur, and some other political forces, to protest against the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Darfur. As a result of security forces’ excessive violence, a student, Ali Abakr Moussa Idris, was killed. On the following day, there were further clashes, when 3,000 protesters attended his funeral. Another student, Mohammed Abdullah Isaac, was seriously injured and many other students were wounded. Several students were arrested and taken to detention centres and “ghosts” houses.
This was another example of the extent of the brutality of this repressive regime that does not hesitate to use extreme force. March 15th saw the riot police and security forces use tear gas to disperse a mass meeting organised by the opposition National Consensus Forces (NCF) alliance, at al-Rabta Square and at the Sudanese Congress Party’s headquarters.
Faced with the prospect of renewed protests, the regime hinted that the President would be willing to meet with the Sudanese Communist Party, the Arab Ba’ath party and the Sudanese Congress Party to discuss them joining in the so-called dialogue. Two other opposition parties, the National Umma Party and the Popular Congress Party, have already agreed to this offer.
But such talks, even if they led to the removal of the regime, would not lead to an end to the crisis facing Sudan. This is because the roots of the crises of poverty, oppression, the environment and underdevelopment lie in Sudan being in the grip of capitalism. Even liberal capitalists, such as the Sudanese Democratic Political Alliance or the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), have no programme to end poverty and to raise the standard of living for the poor and workers. Any appeal to the UN or capitalist governments abroad will fall on deaf ears and will require more austerity, while the country is in massive debts to imperialist agencies. To resolve the crisis, a programme is needed to nationalise the banks, the commanding heights of the economy and all foreign-owned firms, under democratic control of working people and the poor, and replacing top officials with democratically-elected representatives. To achieve this, the Sudanese people need to take their fate into their own hands, armed with the above socialist programme, and to spread these ideas amongst the workers and poor of other Middle Eastern and African countries.
A determined struggle by the activists of Darfur and throughout Sudan, based on a programme for utilising the wealth of the region for the benefit of all its people, could appeal to the workers and poor peasants and the urban and rural poor, including those currently serving in the army, to launch a genuine liberation campaign for the overthrow of the corrupt and repressive regime. Unfortunately none of the existing organisations are capable of playing this role. New forces of class-based non-sectarian struggle have to be constructed to take the fight forward. The solidarity of the working class internationally will be crucial to the success of such a fight.