From the July-August 2019 issue of News & Letters
by Gerry Emmett
The Sudanese Revolution demonstrated its depth, maturity and resilience as masses once again took to the streets following the June 3 massacre of protesters in Khartoum. The Sudanese military had unleashed its brutal Janjaweed militias, now called Rapid Support Forces (RSF), on crowds sitting-in outside military headquarters demanding a transition to civilian rule following the overthrow of dictator Omar al-Bashir.
Over 180 were killed, hundreds wounded, with both women and men being raped and many more disappeared. Bodies were dumped into the Nile River. Activist Mohammed Elnaiem described the collaboration between the army and the RSF forces: “The RSF came first in a small band, around three or four trucks, and started talking to the army. We thought that maybe the army—they were lower-ranked soldiers—would be on our side. But the RSF drove through the barricades that we had built, and the army didn’t do anything. Shortly afterwards, the army vehicles left. At that point most people understood what was going to come next, and started to clear out. We realized that the army and the RSF were in coordination with each other—and that the RSF were in control.”
It should be noted that many Sudanese army officers have been arrested for refusing to move against the revolution.
Even as the Janjaweed/RSF were committing this mass atrocity in the capital, they continued their genocidal attacks in Darfur. In two separate massacres in the village of Deleij, 28 Darfuris were killed and dozens wounded. At least 45 villages have been devastated in the last year.
THE ESSENCE OF THE REGIME APPEARS
The deputy leader of the Transitional Military Council (TMC), and the real power, is General Hemeti (Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo), whom Bashir made head of the RSF in 2013 in recognition of his murderous service. The RSF then expanded into an instrument used against African immigrants heading to Europe, taking on a role previously played by Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was overthrown in 2011. The European Union aided in the construction of concentration camps for these immigrants even as genocide continued in Darfur.
Hemeti, originally from neighboring Chad, has become wealthy through violence. He used his militias to make money from gold mining, smuggling and human trafficking. The last skill was useful to him in providing Darfuri child soldiers to the war in Yemen, for which he has doubtless been well paid. It is known that Saudi Arabia has promised over $3 billion to support the TMC regime.
Hemeti has been abetted by outside powers. Did the U.S. and the Gulf States give a green light to the June 3 massacre? U.S. Charge d’Affaires Steven Koutsis attended an iftar meal with Hemeti and his henchmen; Hemeti and nominal TMC head General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan had visited Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates officials.
IDENTITY OF THE REVOLUTION
The masses’ rejection of Bashir’s fundamentalism forced the TMC to distance itself from the Muslim Brotherhood and some Islamists (though this distancing is also supported by the TMC’s reactionary backers, Egypt and Saudi Arabia). On the other hand, the TMC has given its supporters assurances that Shari’a law will continue to influence legislation.
More significant is the continuing reclamation/transformation of Sudanese identity that has been essential to the revolution. The class component, cutting across ethnic boundaries, expressed itself from the beginning as struggles over food prices became revolutionary struggles over what kind of society Sudan should be. This will remain a determinant as Sudan is over $50 billion in debt to various creditors.
The revolutionary role of women continues. The inspiring invocation of the Nubian Kandakes of the past has been translated into concrete demands for women’s greater empowerment. Under Bashir and the TMC alike, women have been targeted for abuse, including sexual harassment, rape and beatings for “wrong” clothing or behavior. The revolution is demanding women make up a significant portion of a civilian government.
The revolution’s direct confrontation with the racist, genocidal Janjaweed/RSF highlights the reclamation of Sudan’s African identity. This is also internationalism in the spirit of Frantz Fanon that has seen solidarity demonstrations in Kenya (which was attacked by Kenyan authorities) and among Black youth in the U.S. and UK.
The future is unwritten. As Mohamed Khalil, a protester from Port Sudan, stated: “Our revolution is still incomplete. Our main demand is civilian rule and I’m sure we will achieve it.”