As protests continue in Sudan, resistance committees release a key charter

On February 28, the Khartoum Coordination of the Resistance Committees proposed the “Charter for the Establishment of the People’s Authority”, setting forth a militant roadmap to democracy

March 02, 2022 by Pavan Kulkarni
Sudan protests
(Photo: via Facebook)

The long-awaited “Charter for the Establishment of the People’s Authority” was proposed by the Khartoum Coordination of Resistance Committees (RCs) in Sudan on Monday, February 28. Mass demonstrations against the military coup were reported from at least 14 cities in Sudan on the same day.

The security forces unleashed a violent crackdown against the protests. Two people were killed, including a 15-year-old, and at least 210 protesters were injured, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD). At least 27 of the injuries were caused by gunshot wounds. 

47 people were injured after being directly hit by stun grenades and tear gas canisters, which the forces reportedly fired directly onto the bodies of the protesters. Three were run over by vehicles of the security forces and two were stabbed in the abdomen with knives. Two others have suffered cerebral hemorrhage “as result of severe beatings with batons by” the army, CCSD added.

A majority 146 of these injuries took place in the cities of the Khartoum State  – the capital Khartoum city, Khartoum North and Omdurman. Despite heavy repression, multiple rallies starting out from different neighborhoods converged in central Khartoum and reached all the way to the gates of the Presidential Palace before being forced to disperse under heavy fire.

Along with live ammunition, DShK artillery guns were also reportedly used on the protesters here. “There aren’t enough words to describe your courage and steadfastness,” the East Khartoum Resistance Committees Coordination said in a statement addressing the protesters who had made it all the way to the gates of the Presidential Palace, the seat of army chief and coup leader Abdel Fattah al Burhan. 

“These security forces, which lacked a moral compass, continued to attack the neighborhoods surrounding the procession areas, intimidating defenseless civilians [and] plundering properties,” it added. 

In Omdurman, where the two protesters including 15-year-old Mohab Qassam al-Sid were killed, the security forces reportedly also attacked the “AlArba’een hospital, firing teargas and terrorizing doctors and staff” to hinder the treatment of those injured.  

Gunshot wounds were also suffered by at least nine protesters in Medani, the capital city of Al Jazirah State, and nine others in Red Sea State’s capital Port Sudan. Arrests have been made in several parts of the country. 

The total number of protesters killed by the security forces since the coup has now reached 85. Of the more than 3,200 protesters injured, over 500 are still undergoing treatment, according to the latest data compiled by Hadreen Organization. 26 have lost their limbs or other organs and seven have been paralyzed. 

While casualties inflicted by security forces continue to rise with every mass-demonstration like the one on February 28, the undeterred Resistance Committees (RCs) have announced the schedule for nine more such nationwide ‘March of Millions’ this month, starting on March 3.

Amid the ongoing preparations for the protests, the network of over 5,200 RCs organized in neighborhoods across Sudan will also be holding consultations to deliberate on the charter proposed by the Coordination of RCs in Khartoum State to eventually arrive at a single national charter. 

A militant roadmap to democracy

Prepared after months of deliberations among the various RCs in Khartoum State, the charter document puts forth a militant roadmap for the transition from the current military rule to full civilian democracy.

“Declining any calls for direct or indirect negotiations with the putschists,” repeatedly made by the UN and the US and its regional and western allies, the charter reiterated “the continuation of our peaceful resistance” until the overthrow of the military junta. 

Following the overthrow, the charter proposes the formation of a new fully civilian transitional government which, among other things, will be tasked with prosecuting the generals who led the coup and the civilians who collaborated with them. 

The radical vision presented in this document holds to account not only the military generals who led the coup on October 25, 2021, but also the political parties which shared power with the army from mid-2019 in the transitional government that was later dissolved after the coup. 

The charter calls for cancellation of the Constitutional Document of August 2019, on the basis of which this transitional government was formed. The Constitutional Document was a power sharing agreement signed between centrist and right-wing political parties and the military junta. 

Formed immediately after Omar al-Bashir was forced out of power in April 2019 following mass demonstrations that started at the end of 2018, culminating in what has come to be known as December Revolution, the junta was composed of Bashir’s inner circle. 

“All civil and political forces that accepted and participated in negotiations with” this military junta “are required to provide an objective evaluation of the experience that led to the partnership and a public apology for the mistakes that resulted,” the charter demands. 

With few exceptions like the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), most of the sizeable political parties entered into these negotiations and subsequently formed a joint civilian-military transitional government, in which much power and impunity was handed over to the military.     

The little power that remained in civilian hands as per the Constitutional Document was further undermined by the Juba peace agreement, whose provisions, it was agreed, will prevail over the Constitutional Document in case of conflict. 

Failing to address the socio-economic root causes of the conflict in several regions of the country, the agreement has done little to de-escalate the violence which has only increased since in the war-torn regions.  

However, by yielding a share in state power through this agreement, the army won the support of the armed rebel groups. These groups in turn supported the coup to marginalize the very civilian forces which had led the December Revolution and forced the army to enter into negotiations with them.

The Charter calls for “a complete review of the Juba Peace Agreement” to remedy the fact that most of the stakeholders – including the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the local civil and political forces representing the residents of the war-torn areas – were left out of the negotiations.  

One of the most important non-negotiable objectives set in this charter is reforming of the state security sector by dissolving the various militias and forming a single national army that is answerable to a civilian prime minister through the minister of defense. 

Withdrawal of Sudanese troops from Yemen, which had been among the original demands of the December Revolution since 2018, is once again reiterated.

The charter also calls for freeing much of the economy from the ownership of the army, which currently extends even to sectors unrelated to defense, including agriculture.   

In what is arguably the most radical of all proposals, potentially unsettling not only the Sudanese military but also the global finance capital, the charter calls for a review of “all financial agreements, including investment legislation and regulations, from 30 June 1989.” This is the date when dictator Bashir seized power in a military coup and aggressively intensified neoliberal reforms of the economy over the subsequent decades.