“No negotiation, No compromise, No Partnership with the military” remains the main slogan in the unrelenting mass-protests, rallies, and barricades organized in cities across Sudan since the military coup on October 25, 2021.
Now in the fifth month, the civil resistance continues to draw hundreds of thousands week after week to the streets. On March 14, the nation-wide demonstrations, like in other weeks, were met with repression from the army and the militia of the military junta.
Since the coup, at least 87 young protesters, including minors, have been killed in the crackdown while over 3,300 have been injured, and over 500 are still undergoing treatment, according to data compiled by Hadhreen Organization. 28 have lost limbs or other organs and at least eight have been paralyzed as on Friday, March 11.
Several dozen youth arrested during the protests and movement leaders abducted from their homes remain in the custody of the security forces, many in undisclosed locations, facing risks of torture. Among them is 17-year old Tupac, who was arrested in January.
“He has many injuries in head, neck and nose. They broke his leg and used nails with electric drills on his feet,” said Dania Atabani, member of the Resistance Committee in Al Mamura neighborhood in capital city Khartoum.
“There is a difference between how they treat the politicians and the protesters. They just arrest the politicians, but the protesters, they torture.”
Yet, hundreds of thousands of protesters led by a network of over 5,200 Resistance Committees in the neighborhoods across the country remain unwavering in their determination to overthrow the coup and establish a fully civilian government which will prosecute the coup leaders.
However, the politicians of the center and right-wing parties, part of the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition, are once again tending towards compromise. The FFC had shared power with the army in the transitional government that was formed after the signing of the Constitutional Document in 2019, which ceded much political power and impunity to the military.
The army broke its end of the agreement and seized all power by removing the FFC-chosen civilian leaders from the government after the coup on October 25. FFC has welcomed the decision of the UN and the African Union (AU) to jointly facilitate a negotiated settlement for the return to an arrangement on the basis of the Constitutional Document.
“We don’t have much time, and we’ve seen in the last four months the deterioration of the security, political and economic situation,” said Volker Perthes, head of United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), in a joint press conference with African Union (AU) envoy Mohamed Lebatt in Khartoum on March 10.
The UNATIMS was established in mid-2020 by a resolution of the UN Security council (UNSC). In its statement three days after the coup on October 28, 2021, the UNSC, which did not use the word ‘coup’, called upon Sudan’s military authorities to “restore the civilian-led transitional government on the basis of the Constitutional Document”.
“This term ‘civilian-led’ is in itself a form of manipulation by the international community”
Earlier, on the day of the coup, the US had also issued a statement without using the word ‘coup’, condemning the “dissolution of the civilian-led transitional government and its associated institutions” and calling for their “immediate restoration”.
The ‘Friends of Sudan’ group – US, France, UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, UK and the European Union (EU), along with regional countries, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and UAE – also called for restoration of the “civilian-led government”.
“This term ‘civilian-led’ is in itself a form of manipulation by the international community. Any political power for the military makes it no longer a civilian government,” protested Atabani.
“This is something the Western countries know and understand well when it comes to their countries. But they seem to think that in Sudan, and in the Global South in general, we are not worthy of a government held accountable to the people and shall always be ruled by the power of weapons and militaries,” she told Peoples Dispatch in an earlier interview.
While this sentiment has been evident on the streets, most manifestly in the rejection of the temporary return of the civilian Prime Minister Abadalla Hamdok, the UNITAMS opened a fruitless round of negotiations in January.
“The UN is an impartial actor and is not prejudging the outcome of the process,” its statement said. “However, the UN is committed to supporting a civilian-led government as the ultimate objective as per our mandate.”
“Ultimate” is the operative word here, reflecting a lack of acknowledgement of the urgency, provoking much anger among the Sudanese people, subjected to military rule for most part since independence.
Adding to this provocation, the UNITAMS explained that the “process will be inclusive. All key civilian and military stakeholders.. will be invited to participate in the UN-facilitated political process.” This proposal to seek an agreement with the leaders of the coup has been met with outrage by the Resistance Committees, which command the majority on the streets.
“This is extremely disrespectful of the Sudanese people”
“While the UN and these foreign governments believe that it is not realistic to remove the military from power in Sudan, it is totally not realistic to achieve peace, democracy and development by compromising with the criminal coup. It is clear that these governments are only interested in short term stability and are willing to sacrifice the population of Sudan for that,” argued Atabani.
“The dialogue and discussion led by the UN mission have almost no impact on the streets. Yet, they keep insisting. This is extremely disrespectful of the Sudanese people,” she said. “The international and regional push for holding negotiations with the coup leaders are the only thing legitimizing the coup now. They are meeting the coup leaders and even calling him the head of the sovereignty council.”
“While these foreign governments are legitimizing the coup,” she added, “the RCs in Sudan are discussing new government structures.”
The Charter for the Establishment of People’s Authority proposed by the Khartoum Coordination of Resistance Committees on February 28, calls for the scrapping of the Constitutional Document of 2019. Rather than settling for a return to an arrangement on its basis, as urged by the international community, the Charter proposes the formation of new transitional government structures “under the supervision and monitoring of the resistance committees and the active revolutionary forces”.
This fully-civilian government, unlike the one which was dissolved after the coup, is to prosecute the coup leaders, subjugate the armed forces to its authority and reform its structures, free the vast portion of the country’s economy from its control and ownership, and withdraw troops from Yemen, among other tasks.
Competing with such visions of radical transformation that has mobilized an entire generation of youth in Sudan, is this attempt at bringing together for a so-called “Sudanese-Sudanese” dialogue, under the aegis of an “impartial actor” which will treat the pro-democracy protesters and the army shooting them down as equal “stakeholders”.