#SudanRevolts Must Prevail

This article originally appeared in Muftah.org and has been republished with permission http://muftah.org/a-coup-attempt-in-sudan-the-resumption-of-sudanrevolts

On November 22, 2012, Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) announced that it had successfully foiled a coup, and arrested several high-ranking army officers accused of plotting the takeover. Former NISS head, Salah Gosh, was also arrested.

The governing National Congress Party (NCP) has been known to concoct charges of sabotage and assassination to justify the arrest and neutralization of political opponents. However, since all the detained individuals are prominent Islamists and members of the ruling regime, the logic behind these recent events is not as clear-cut.

Most theories center around a power struggle for succession triggered by Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir’s ailing health. This past August, in Doha, the President had a benign tumor removed from his throat. A second operation was carried out in Saudi Arabia in November, fueling rumors the tumor may in fact be malignant.

According to one theory, key civilian elements in the regime ordered the arrests as a preemptive measure to weaken would-be military successors, such as Brigadier General Mohamed Ibrahim Abdel-Galil “Wad Ibrahim” who is popular within both the army and the Islamic Movement (IM)[1].

Others believe that allegations about coup members planning acts of sabotage and assassinations were fabricated, but that the coup itself – in planning rather than implementation – was real.

This philosophy is inherent in the writings of “Al-Sae’ohoon”, a group of former “Mujahideen”[2] that have recently become more vocal and present themselves as NCP reformists. There are strong links between Al-Sae’ohoon’s official statement about the coup and an article written by prominent London-based Sudanese Islamist Abdelwahab Al-Affendi, titled, “The army sides with the people (in advance)”.

Both Al-Sae’ohoon and Al-Affendi suggest that the takeover would have been widely supported and within the army officers’ rights to save the nation by overthrowing the failing regime. Salah Gosh, a polarizing individual hated and mistrusted by many Sudanese, was arrested, they claim, in order to tarnish the officers’ reputations and turn the NCP and public opinion against them.

Roots of the Coup

Tensions within the ruling clique had been brewing for some time, and have escalated considerably since the secession of South Sudan. The Islamist dominated army has been dismayed by a series of military setbacks, most notably in the border oilfield area of Heglig. Following a brief conflict with South Sudan, the government was much maligned for its acceptance of an African Union resolution, which was perceived by several government hardliners as biased toward South Sudan.

Increasingly close relations between Iran and Sudan have been another source of contention. Foreign Minister, Ali Karti, has been vociferously critical of this relationship. Sudan’s growing relations with the Islamic Republic likely motivated an October air strike on the Yarmouk arms factory, widely believed to have been orchestrated by Israel. Karti has also publically warned against the impact of budding relations with Iran on Sudan’s strategic ties with the Gulf.
Internal government dissension has been building over corruption, nepotism and generally undemocratic behavior among the NCP leadership. The 8th General Conference of the Islamic Movement, held on November 16-17, 2012 and attended by an estimated 4000 Sudanese Islamists and 150 foreign visitors, fueled additional resentment.

Many hoped the conference would be an opportunity for internal reform. A number of participants called for the election of members unaffiliated with the government to lead the IM and NCP in order to loosen the regime’s hold on the IM. Instead, through several electoral and constitutional amendments, the government’s hold over the organization was further deepened at the conference. The Movement’s new secretary-general was appointed by the government-dominated Shura council rather than through election by conference participants. A Supreme Council, consisting of top-level government officials and led by President Omer al-Bashir and his deputies, was also established.

The Coup’s Aftermath

Some argue that the warring NCP should be allowed to implode from within. This approach is, however, a risky one as any intra-NCP confrontation would add further instability to a nation teetering on collapse.

Without any doubt, internal upheaval would cause Sudan to deteriorate at a faster pace. Moreover, so-called Islamic Movement “reformists” and members of Bashir’s ruling coalition represent two sides of the same coin – while the faces may be different, the politics remain the same.

This extends to the regime’s original puppet master, the ousted Hassan Al-Turabi, and his opposition group, the Popular Congress Party (PCP). Far from being concerned about Sudan’s plight, Al-Sae’ohoon, Al-Turabi, Gosh and others are disillusioned over what they see as a softening of the regime’s Islamic principles. They are angered by concessions made by the government, both in its implementation of Shari’a as well as in its negotiation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which culminated in the secession of South Sudan. While they have been vocal in their concerns over corruption – specifically, the largess of the regime leadership and its monopolization of power and wealth – the marginalization they oppose is their own, and not that of the Sudanese people.

Sudan is in critical need of tangible democratic change. Achieving this is not simply a matter of exchanging one dictator for another, but rather requires overhauling the entire governing system. Anything less than this cannot be contemplated.

The only scenario in which change can or should incorporate internal regime elements must involve the opposition, the youth, and civil society in a meaningful way to ensure a managed, stable, and inclusive transition of power. This, in turn, can only transpire through popular mobilization.

The Resumption of #SudanRevolts

Protests in Sudan, which tailed off last August, have re-emerged. The latest wave started on Saturday December 8, 2012, ignited by the NISS murder of four students from Darfur in the Sudanese state of Gezira.

The students had been arrested for protesting against tuition fees imposed upon them by Gezira University, to which they were exempt per the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. Their bodies were discovered in a canal on Friday, December 7, 2012.

These killing were by no means new to this regime; marginalized groups are systematically targeted and impoverished by the NCP, leading some to respond by taking up arms. This, in turn, has abetted the racial brainwashing of many average Sudanese, who have become programmed to fear these groups and condone the pillaging and bombing of whole villages in places like Darfur and the Nuba Mountains.

Those killed in Gezira were unarmed students two-weeks into university life, striving merely to obtain an education. While much work still needs to be done, chants of “one nation, one land,” “death of a student is the death of a nation” and “no tribes, no ethnicities, 100% Sudanese” heard over the last few days offer hope that the imbedded racism in Sudan can be reversed.

While the protests (whether those that started in June 2012 or in December) were sparked by specific incidents, their overriding message has been for the fall of the regime. Though challenges to a successful revolution endure, the regime’s many difficulties have also significantly increased.

Collaboration agreements[3] signed in September 2012 with South Sudan have yet to be implemented and hang in the balance due to deadlock over border and security arrangements. As a result, Sudan has not been able to build into its 2013 budget revenue from oil transit fees, as agreed to in the Agreement Concerning Oil and Related Economic Matters.

The 2013 budget has projected a deficit of 10 billion Sudanese pounds (US$2.3 billion). Meanwhile, Sudan’s central bank is two months’ away from foreign currency reserve depletion. Debts associated with ongoing wars in Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile continue to mount.

Against this backdrop of military, economic and political failures the internal NCP organ has developed its own melanoma, indicative of a malfunctioning regime. As one blogger put it, “If #SudanRevolts once again re-ignites to June’s levels, it’s going to be a bigger challenge to Bashir and his weaker, divided government.”

Conclusion

Rather than gamble on regime discord, #SudanRevolts must seize upon it and dictate change. The alternative, be it a continuation of the present regime, its reincarnation around any one NCP faction, or a stand-off between the factions, would lead (at varying paces) not only to the NCP’s self-inflicted disintegration but to the inevitable collapse of Sudan itself. The ultimate success of the country’s nascent protest movement remains the only hope for national survival.

[1] The Islamic Movement (IM) was created by Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), following the 1999 schism with its former leader Hassan Al-Turabi and his supporters who formed the Popular Congress Party (PCP). The IM was created as a parallel organization to generate a broader political base to support the Islamist orientation of the NCP regime and rally Sufi and radical Islamist groups under its umbrella, while excluding the PCP.

[2] The Mujahideen are hard-line Islamists that formed the core of special forces fighting South Sudan rebels during the civil war after president Omar al-Bashir came to power in 1989 in a military coup backed by the then National Islamist Front (NIF).

[3] The “Collaboration Agreements” are a series of arrangements reached on 27 September 2012 between the Governments of the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan and include: the Agreement on Security Arrangements, the Framework Agreement on the Status of Nationals of the Other State, the Agreement on Border Issues, the Agreement on Trade and Trade-related Issues, the Agreement on a Framework for Cooperation on Central Banking Issues, the Framework Agreement to Facilitate Payment of Post-service Benefits, the Agreement on Certain Economic Matters, Division of Assets and Liabilities, Arrears and Claims and Joint Approach to the International Community, the Agreement Concerning Oil and Related Economic Matters, and the overall Cooperation Agreement.

YOU CANNOT REFORM THE DEFORMED – AN OPEN LETTER TO CORDONEDSUDAN

On Friday November 2, 2012 CordonedSudan published a blog post titled Reform or Revolution?

If I understood the post correctly then Cordoned was pointing, in disappointment, to a string of “high-activity” columns pressing for a reform agenda which he asserts are at the expense of all-out revolution in Sudan. Cordoned recommended readers of the articles in question, by Armin Rosen, Harry Verhoeven and Jon Temin, to read ALL columns, carefully, several times”.

In reaching judgment on the message being conveyed by Armin Rosen, Cordoned pointed to “Mr. Rosen’s interview of Yousif Elmahdi (that’s me by the way)” giving “insight to a shared political vision (most likely shared by more illustrious members of his family) eager to resume the pre-coup role of Presidency that they failed at: he [Yousif Elmahdi] doubts the government will fall unless there are paralyzing street protests that would convince more opportunistic elements in the NCP to side against the regime’s current leadership.”

Cordoned goes on to address me directly, “Which is it Elmahdi? Is it reform or revolution?” before answering on my behalf: “Of course to Elmahdi, reform. It guarantees a more optimal positioning of the Umma Party. Although the young Yousif champions revolution, nominally, Saddiq isn’t shy about the need for reform. Yousif also admits that the regime is needed to dismantle the system: I call this the ‘soft implosion’ school of thought. It is both practical and self-serving to the Elmahdis who share an intriguing relationship of confrontation and cooperation with the regime”.

Had Cordoned left it to me then I would gladly have obliged a response but that he took it upon himself to make assumptions necessitates that I provide one.

In doing so I’ve examined Armin’s piece several times and am left with the feeling that Cordoned hasn’t taken his own advice, and is guilty, in my opinion, of not reading the lines before attempting to read between them. The irony is that when we spoke (around 6 weeks ago), Armin didn’t have a specific article in mind. We mostly discussed the economy and a week later he emailed to say he’d decided to “write something about the Sudan’s fiscal cliff—i.e. the possibility that the government will simply run out of money, and be unable to sustain its patronage network”. That’s precisely what he did. The argument Armin makes is clear – in fact it’s been put forward by me and many economic analysts before. That is, a free-falling economy is driving the NCP regime to a collapse that can only be averted through serious economic reforms. These reforms are improbable given that they run contrary to the NCP’s very existence and as such change in Sudan is an approaching inevitability, in Armin’s words – “It’s basically over”.

It was this discussion on the economy that brought about the quote that seems to have inspired Cordoned’s assumptions. The issue of debt arose to which I noted hearing that prior to the outbreak of conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, the United States seriously contemplated clearing Sudan’s arrears. This led us to speculate on the US’s Sudan policy (or lack thereof) and my view that a second term Obama administration would be more inclined to support regime change that encompassed internal elements to guard against post-revolution instabilities similar to those witnessed in Arab Spring countries.

While the regime’s fiscally exacerbated fragmentation renders this a plausible scenario, Cordoned, who coins this ‘the soft-implosion school of thought’, conveniently glosses over the qualification that such a scenario is highly unlikely to transpire without the encouragement of and in compliment to popular unrest. It is in fact the reformist elements of the regime that require popular mobilization rather than the reverse and as such a scenario that culminates in an ‘NCP-2’ would not be accepted nor would it sustain. Democratic change is not simply a matter of exchanging one dictator for another; it requires changing the entire system of governance. Internal reformists would be compelled to work closely with civil and armed opposition; youth and civil society to ensure a managed dissolution of the status quo and an inclusive transition of power. To put it short, revolution without reform is a non-starter. I find it hard to believe that a mutually exclusive approach such as this can possibly be in the best interest of the Sudanese people. One would be hard pressed to find a successful revolution in history that did not place reform at the top of its agenda, and was not composed of elements of internal ruling party dissent. Such a black and white separation of revolution from reform I can only attribute as either a result of undirected zeal or well-intentioned naivete.

While the scenario I’ve outlined would be nothing short of a “revolution”, one must distinguish between expectations and preferences for change. I won’t delve into my own preferences since these are plastered all over my #SudanRevolts dedicated blog. In likely reference to this blog, Cordoned concedes me to be a “champion” of revolution, albeit “nominally”. Content with my own efforts in this regard, I will avoid the temptation to compare battle-scars. Suffice to say that my desire for change is unwavering and I firmly believe it to be inevitable.

While I make no apologies for my allegiance to the Umma Party and particularly to being a proud Ansari, I wholly agree with Cordoned’s reading that my “more illustrious” uncle would find reform a more convenient option. He would do well however to avoid generalizations. After all it was the Ansar mosque in Wad Nubawi that turned out the fiercest and most consistent wave of anti-regime protests this past summer. This is in no small part due to the large swaths of Umma Party members, especially among the youth, that have chosen to align themselves with the change movement while rebuking their party leaderships’ lack of support.

While I find it rather humbling to be considered a sheep, it is well known that the Mahdi family is itself fragmented. The slightest research would have led Cordoned to discover to which side of the family I descend and its position with regards to both Sadiq and the present regime. Notwithstanding, I personally believe Sadiq and other archaic opposition leaders’ disengagement might ultimately prove beneficial to the change movement, given the public’s lack of confidence and mistrust in them. It (their disengagement) should also preclude them from participating in any eventual ‘alternative’.

Armin Rosen couldn’t have been more poignant when he said “Sudan’s National Congress Party, led by the International Criminal Court-indicted Omar al Bashir, has proven itself to be one of the more adaptable cadres of autocrats the modern Middle East and Africa has ever known.” One key means the regime has achieved this is through the division of its opposition. Cordoned’s assumptions, derived (astonishingly), from a mere quote, are symptomatic of the mistrust, suspicion and contempt the NCP propaganda machine has succeeded in instilling, even amongst the emergent youth. It is this fragmentation that continues to hold us (and Cordoned) back from the common goal – revolution – to which we aspire and will accept nothing less – as simply put, you cannot reform the deformed.

“We, the Sudanese people, are a nation that will succeed and prosper at all costs. No longer will we continue to be intimidated and paralyzed – we will rise to the occasion and stake our claim to a state that provides for our basic rights”.

Annex to “Change: An Inevitability in Sudan”: A Note on the Status of the Sudan Economy

When it signed the CPA, Sudan had a world of possibility before it, enjoying peace, substantial revenue, and a boom in Foreign Direct Investment. However, because of inept economic management, these opportunities have been squandered. Sudan increased its dependence on the oil sector, despite the obvious signs that this revenue source was drying up. By 2007, foreign investors grew weary of ongoing political risk and high levels of corruption, resulting in a decline in investment levels.

Meanwhile, the government borrowed to fuel its expenditure binge. Despite an approximate US$60 billion in oil exports, the country’s external debt has risen by US$15 billion since the advent of oil production, reaching US$40 billion overall. New debt accrued is unsustainable, in the form of harsher term non-concessional loans given that the regime’s political and human rights issues have impeded access to concessional lending. The regime’s self-inflicted international isolation has also meant debt relief continues to be out of reach.

The government allowed unchecked expansions in public spending. Most of this money would be destined for the security and political sectors, with only a small share going to infrastructure development, industry, and social safety nets. Agriculture, which is the main source of livelihood for 80% of the population, and other productive sectors have been systematically neglected alongside health, water and education contributing to Sudan’s woeful Human Development Index, ranking 169 of 187 overall, the lowest of all MENA countries.

The regime failed to build any type of sovereign fund for future generations or develop its hard currency reserves despite unexpectedly high oil prices in 2007 and onwards. Instead, it managed its currency to bolster GDP through increased consumption, supplied by imports.

Today, Sudan exhibits the signs of the Resource Curse – an increasingly narrow export and employment base, with manufacturing and agriculture in long-term decline. Ironically, the resource has now mostly gone.

The loss of oil exports has had a resounding impact on the economy: the current account balance has drastically turned into a large deficit, officially estimated at US$2.4 billion, and the Sudanese pound has depreciated by approximately 125 percent since secession. Wars in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan that, by the government’s own admission, have cost Sudan approximately US$4 million per day are depleting resources that the country can ill afford in the midst of an economic crisis caused by the loss of oil revenues and litany of other fiscal maladies.

Consequently, the economic outlook for Sudan is dreadful. The IMF projects 7.2% contraction in 2012 and a 13% decrease in GDP over the next three years, assuming the country pursues a modest policy response to its current circumstances. The response adopted by the regime, in an attempt to address its bottom line, was to amend its budget for 2012, which projected 28% of revenues from oil transit fees and has not been realized. These so called ‘austerity’ measures have been undertaken in an effort to reduce the widening budget deficit by bolstering non-oil revenues and rationalizing expenditures. However, actual expenditure cuts have been cosmetic, not only falling short of announcements but have not been applied to military, security and the sovereign sector in general, spending on which has increased. It is important to note that the government’s now defaulted 2012 budget included 82% spending on the security and political sectors, while 49% of total cross sector expenditures went to public wages and salaries, of which 88% was for these two sectors alone. On the other hand, agriculture received just 3% of total expenditure while the health and education sectors respectively received 2.4% and 2.3%.

The ‘austerity’ measures, which have increased fuel, sugar, VAT, customs and excise duty and have devalued the Sudanese pound by 125%, have served only to exacerbate the already high cost of living and to bring the economy to a tipping point. Inflation continues to accelerate, partly due to the rising cost of basic imported goods, which in turn has increased economic hardship for the poor and vulnerable. Inflation reportedly reached 37.2% in June 2012, double the level in the same month one year ago. The cost of food items has also jumped 41.4% from a year earlier while the price of meat, all of it local, has risen by 150% – today, a kilo of meat costs 50 pounds ($11.4 at the official rate) as opposed to 20 pounds one year ago. For July, figures just released by the Central Bureau of Statistics indicate a staggering year on year inflation of 41.6% – bearing in mind that these statistics are widely believed to be underreported for political reasons. Although some savings were made from the partial removal of the oil subsidies, no social safety net has been implemented to reduce the burden on the poor ensuring that poverty, estimated at 46.5% overall and 57.6% in rural areas in 2009, grows more acute by the day.

Therefore protests against austerity measures over the last two months are not about short-term price increases, but the rejection of government attempts to force the poor and middle classes to pay for a decade of economic mismanagement. The regime’s management of oil revenues, which could have transformed Sudan into an emerging economy, has instead become glaring evidence of its pervasive corruption.

The recent oil deal with South Sudan is yet to be implemented, and while its implementation may provide modest short-term relief it is presumptuous to think it can halt or reverse the deterioration. The announced financial support package will be disbursed over a period of three and a half years and falls well short of covering the fiscal deficit. While officially estimated at US$2.4 billion, privately the regime admits to a deficit closer to US$10 billion. This deficit continues to widen given the economic mismanagement of resources and lack of diversification beyond oil.

The regime also can no longer rely on the heavy investments it was previously able to attract from Asia and the Middle East, especially in the oil sector where credit was readily available. The situation has now changed drastically – both politically and economically. With the loss of oil exports, Sudan’s creditworthiness has decreased. This combined with the existing large debt obligations and arrears situation, the heightened political risks and the prevailing economic uncertainties have made it extremely difficult for Sudan to obtain external financing. As never before, Sudan will need to have access to debt relief for it no longer has the ability, it previously had, to attract foreign loans or to service the harsher terms associated with non-concessional ones. However, there are several reasons that currently render such debt relief virtually out of reach for Sudan. The major obstacle that has stood in the way of Sudan benefitting from such debt relief in the past is political and this situation is now more acute than ever before. To benefit from any official debt relief program, Sudan’s Paris Club creditors will need to be satisfied that the government has taken significant steps in solving its political and human rights problems. With the instability in Darfur, the unrest in Abyei, the conflicts in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States and the humanitarian situation in these areas together with the legacy of the ICC ruling, the Sudanese government is a far cry from meeting the minimum political and human rights requirements for debt relief.

An economic turnaround will require drastic restructuring of the allocation of resources towards productive sectors and poverty reduction. With more than 80% of government current spending inflexibly devoted to state transfers and security expenditure, a rationalization of public spending of the required magnitude can only be implemented within a comprehensive restructuring program of the overall government machinery. The large outlays for military and security would need to be curtailed through the dissolution of illegal militias and regime forces, as well as agreements to end civil conflicts. These reforms are at odds with the very existence of the National Congress Party regime given that expenditure is solely designed to sustain its grip on power through patronage, division and extermination of dissent.

The only solution is a political turnaround that facilitates strong pro-poor economic and structural economic reforms.

Change: An Inevitability in Sudan

Introduction

Change in Sudan has become inevitable. The question is how and when?

There are a number of factors that combine to make change possible:

1. The collapse of the economy. The economy is not revivable without political change as the regime’s means of survival contradict with economic reform. The government’s now defaulted 2012 budget included 82% spending on the security and political sectors, while 49% of total cross sector expenditures went to public wages and salaries, of which 88% was for these two sectors alone.

2. The military confrontation and growing regime fragmentation. Other than costly economic attrition, with the wars in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan costing, by the government’s own admission, approximately US$4 million per day, these conflicts are causing unrest within the army and NCP ranks.

3. International isolation (resolutions, sanctions and the ICC) and their ramifications.

4. Emancipation from fear. People all over the country took to the streets over June and July 2012 and this is likely to reoccur given the factors above.

This piece will discuss popular uprising, its challenges and prospects for success. It will also discuss the alternative to the present regime and the myths surrounding it.

Outlook

Sudan is headed towards a popular change. The scenarios of 1964 and 1985 may be repeating; in both, students took to the streets and were joined by citizens, after which a general strike ensued that brought the country to a standstill and led to the army’s interference on behalf of the people. A transitional period then preceded general elections.

This time around, such an event is hindered by the lack of independent professional bodies, which have been banned by the regime along with most institutions that could have potentially played a major role in coordinating strikes and other forms of civil disobedience. There are also doubts about the army’s neutrality (regime-dominated), as well as concerns regarding the violent roles that may be played by the regime-driven National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), the ‘jihadist’ Popular Defense Forces (PDF), and the litany of irregular militias employed by the National Congress Party (NCP) to protect its rule.

Regardless, change is inevitable. The regime has lost control of a now free-falling economy [See Annex: A Note on the Status of the Sudan Economy]. The IMF projects 7.2% contraction in 2012 and a 13% decrease in GDP over the next three years, assuming the country pursues a modest policy response to its current circumstances. The response adopted by the regime, in an attempt to address its bottom line, was to amend its budget for 2012, which projected 28% of revenues from oil transit fees that have not been realized. These so called ‘austerity’ measures have been undertaken in an effort to reduce the widening budget deficit by bolstering non-oil revenues and rationalizing expenditures. However, actual expenditure cuts have been cosmetic, not only falling short of announcements but have not been applied to military, security and the sovereign sector in general, spending on which has increased. The ‘austerity’ measures, which have increased fuel, sugar, VAT, customs and excise duties and have devalued the Sudanese pound by 125%, have served only to exacerbate the already high cost of living and to bring the economy to a tipping point. Although some savings were made from the partial removal of the oil subsidies, no social safety net has been implemented to reduce the burden on the poor, ensuring that poverty, estimated at 46.5% overall and 57.6% in rural areas in 2009, grows more acute by the day.

The recent oil deal with South Sudan is yet to be implemented, and while its implementation may provide modest short-term relief it is presumptuous to think it can halt or reverse the deterioration. The announced financial support package will be disbursed over a period of three and a half years and falls well short of covering the fiscal deficit. While officially estimated at US$2.4 billion, privately the regime admits to a deficit closer to US$10 billion. This deficit continues to widen given the economic mismanagement of resources and lack of diversification beyond oil.

An economic turnaround will require drastic restructuring of the allocation of resources towards productive sectors and poverty reduction. With more than 80% of government current spending inflexibly devoted to state transfers and security expenditures, a rationalization of public spending of the required magnitude can only be implemented within a comprehensive restructuring program of the overall government machinery. The large outlays for military and security would need to be curtailed through the dissolution of illegal militias and regime forces, as well as agreements to end civil conflicts. These reforms are at odds with the very existence of the National Congress Party regime given that expenditure is solely designed to sustain its grip on power through patronage, division and extermination of dissent.

The current situation that has seen inflation reach an unprecedented 41.6% – bearing in mind that these statistics are widely believed to be underreported for political reasons – serves as further motivation for coordinated civil action. Ignited by short-term price increases and in rejection of government attempts to force the poor and middle classes to pay for a decade of economic mismanagement lawyers, doctors and workers, amongst others, have started to come together to coordinate action such as the recent doctor’s strike and lawyer’s sit-in protest in front of the courts both in Khartoum and across several states.

The regime’s fiscal constraints will further exacerbate existing internal divisions that would weaken the security response to popular uprising as well as rally support from regime forces around it. The economic constraints also deprive the regime of its opportunistic support secured by patronage that is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain. As a result the ruling clique is fragmented: top Islamists and National Congress Party members are divided; President Bashir (the military) is calling the shots and has monopolized decision-making. In addition factions, discontented with the regime’s political direction, are forming within the military itself. The regime is struggling to finance wages and salaries of the armed forces, and this has manifested in looting by forces stationed in areas such as Kutum and Mileit. A growing core of regime ‘mujahedeen’, cadre and youth are turning against the ruling clique.

Given this situation, there is wide realization that Sudan is now ready for change. In response a provisional agreement is in the works between the civil and armed opposition to unify over an alternative charter and to mobilize support bases. This agreement would provide leadership and coordination to the change movement, which includes youth groups and civil society actors that have become increasingly active both inside Sudan and in the diaspora, as evidenced by recent events.

A more popular pressure could influence forces guarding the regime (also victims of economic hardship) and dissidents within the Islamist movement and National Congress Party. Dialogue of sorts is already extending between active members of the change movement and those calling for change, amongst both youth and senior figures within the regime. This would be an ideal and stabilizing scenario given the acceptance amongst most groups that the army could be the conduit for transition, as happened previously in Sudan, and recently in both Egypt and Tunisia.

The Alternative and Skepticism Surrounding It

An alternative charter, building on that previously signed by opposition political forces in July 2012 and inclusive of armed movements, youth, and civil society would provide the framework for an interim national government encompassing all stakeholders.

Removal of the current regime would pave the way to eradicating conflict and reversing marginalization by tackling the prevalent governance issues. Striving to resolve these issues through piecemeal bilateral means has proven untenable, and the evidence supporting this is clear – Abuja and Asmara (Eastern Sudan) have failed; Doha appears stillborn; while Naivasha split the country, producing two hostile states. The governance crisis must be addressed at its root – the center. Conflict in Darfur, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan can only be resolved through a new political dispensation that brings about a civil democratic state with a federal set-up and equitable wealth sharing. This would be buttressed through the dissolution of illegal militias, disarmament and establishment of reformed security, military and police organs based on professionalism and reflective, at all levels, of the ethnic diversity of the country.

The alternative regime would further work to promote stability with South Sudan, utilizing their leadership’s standing relations with the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The potential win-win benefits of strengthened cooperation can be wide-ranging when considering the considerable potential social, economic and political opportunities that exist for both nations and for the North-South Border States in particular.

Most importantly, a new regime would facilitate the political change to ignite strong pro-poor and structural economic reforms. Whole-scale economic reforms would involve a drastic restructuring of the allocation of resources towards productive sectors and poverty reduction. In addition, the economy, through access to debt relief and concessional financing, would benefit from endeavors by the interim government towards normalization of Sudan’s relations with the wider international community.

Regime-driven propaganda and several myths repeated by international actors have resulted in skepticism with regards to the existence of such an alternative. For instance, many in the international community have bought into the NCP fallacy that regime collapse invariably means a Sudanese collapse. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The regime, made up of a Muslim Brotherhood minority in alliance with partisan army officers and a wider patronage network, lacks popular or grassroots support. Moreover, it is the regime’s system of governance – a sequence of failures and fraudulent policies – that has placed Sudan at threat of collapse. It is this system that has brought Sudan three new wars and entrapment in an endless cycle of conflict through rekindled tribal divisions; acute poverty and marginalization; internally displaced people; a bankrupt economy; a dismal education and health system; gross human rights abuses; and tense relations with its neighbors. In fact, experience dictates that removal of the regime, rather than being a trigger, is the only remaining means to avert an all-out collapse.

Some in the international community rule out a democratic alternative because they perceive national parties, led by archaic figureheads, to be weak. The opposition’s apparent ineffectiveness is in no small part due to regime efforts to divide these parties and other organized groups perceived as political threats. Seeing this, they overlook that these parties have deep rooted support and a unifying role in a society that evolves from tribal to sectarian to party. Furthermore, these parties are encountering a generational struggle wherein the old archaic leaders are increasingly being recognized as stagnating the change process, complacent in their positions. Change at the level of government will extend to these parties that need a democratic atmosphere to reform and introduce new leadership. The international community fails to recognize the fact that Sudan since independence started as a liberal democracy – unique to the entire region. Democracy struggled to sustain in Sudan with neighboring dictatorships, uninterested in its survival, conspiring to support military coups and insurgencies in the country. The Sudanese however have continually strived for democratic transformation, installing democratic governments following the overthrow, through popular uprisings, of two military dictatorships in 1964 and 1985.

Some observers put Shari’a forward as an impediment to an agreement over a democratic alternative. Those claiming this are misled by the NCP’s false use of Shari’a as a political tool to consolidate their hold on power. The NCP’s supposed ‘Islamic State’ has been exposed as a form of religious manipulation no longer bought into in Sudan. In reality the civil state is widely recognized by Sudanese religious scholars as well now as Al-Azhar as embodying all of the grand principles of Shari’a – justice, equality, freedom and rule of law. Contrary to the view that religion may prove a saboteur, it has always been a unifying factor in Sudan. The nature of Islam in Sudan is Sufism, a very tolerant brand of Islam. Furthermore, in 1995 opposition forces agreed in Asmara that the Sudanese state would be multi-ethnic; based around citizenship rather than religion; and that religion would not be used in politics. The founders of the larger national parties, although religious leaders, never pushed Islam as a divisive tool in politics. Islam, for instance, did not deter the South from joining the Mahdist revolution. The Umma Party, the political derivative of the Sufi Mahdist movement, stood against President Numeiri’s manipulation of Shari’a in politics, an act which resulted in its entire leadership being imprisoned for two years. National parties have stood against the same with the NCP regime.

The issue, therefore, is not religion; the issue in Sudan now is peace, equality, justice, wealth sharing and freedom – all of which cannot be achieved within the current political dispensation.

بيان صحفي حول التطورات في حزب الأمة

 

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

مبـارك المهــدي

السودان

MUBARAK ELMAHDI

SUDAN

 

 

 

 

بيان صحفي حول التطورات في حزب الأمة

لقد اطل علينا السيد الصادق المهدي من خلال صحيفة الشرق الأوسط بمواقف سياسية مخالفة لماأقرته أجهزة حزب الأمة إلي جانب اتهامات جائرة لشخصي بالعمالة والعمل علي مناهضة ومقاومة خطه السياسي الرافض لإسقاط نظام الإنقاذ. تأتي هذه الاتهامات في أعقاب حراك حزبي وشعبي واسع انتظم العاصمة وسائر عواصم الولايات مطالباً بتغيير النظام، كما تزامنت هذه التصريحات مع قرارات اتخذها السيد الصادق المهدي بفصل عدد كبير من القيادات المخضرمة والمرموقة في حزبالأمة من مواقعهم التنظيمية في الحزب، علي خلفية اختلافهم معه علي نهجه  الشمولي في إدارة الحزب واختلافهم معه حول إدارته لخط الحزب السياسي.

إن اتهامات السيد الصادق لي بالعمالة لم تكن الأولي ولن تكون الأخيرة طالما ظل يعتبر أن الرأيالآخر في الحزب يشكل تحدي لرئاسته وانفراده بالقرار في الحزب، وهو للأسف منهج شموليلإقصاء الخصوم السياسيين درجت عليه الإنقاذ ومثيلاتها من الأنظمة. إنني أترفع عن الرد علي هذه الاتهامات، بل أقول للسيد الصادق بان دولة الجنوب التي عنيتها ووصفتها بأنها دولة أجنبية، هي جزء منا ونحن جزء منها، فمواطني الجنوب هم أهلنا دماً ولحماً. عاهد قادتهم الإمام المهدي في قدير علي تحرير الوطن وقاتلوا معه حتى تحرير الخرطوم. كما تصاهرت سائر قبائل السودان مع قبائل الجنوب وفي مقدمتهم الإمام المهدي وإخوانه، فكانت جدة الإمام عبدالرحمن المهدي لامه من نيام ليل في شمال بحر الغزال. إنني وعلي عكس موقفك المعادي للجنوب اعتز بعلاقتي مع أهلنا في الجنوب التي ادخرها لبناء السودان الموحد.

إنني أدعو السيد الصادق المهدي حرصاً علي المصلحة الوطنية العليا في هذه الظروف الدقيقة التي تمر بها بلادنا، وحفاظاً علي رصيده الوطني الطويل، ادعوه العمل علي جمع الشمل، وتوحيد الصفإنفاذا لقرارات الهيئة المركزية والمكتب السياسي في هذا الصدد، كما أناشده احترام قرارات أجهزةحزب الأمة وجماهيره المطالبة  بإسقاط النظام عبر الانتفاضة الشعبية السلمية وفقاً للخطة (ب) التيأجازها المكتب السياسي سابقاً  وطالب بتفعيلها في  سبتمبر ٢٠١١ بعد إبلاغكم لهم كتابةً فشل مفاوضاتكم مع المؤتمر الوطني ورفض الأخير الأجندة الوطنية.

إن مصادرة حق الأمين العام المنتخب من الهيئة المركزية بإجماع أعضاءها في اختيار مساعديه ومطالبته بمناصفة الأمين العام الذي حجبت عنه الثقة أمر غير ديمقراطي وغير دستوري يعطل طاقات الحزب ومؤسساته وقد أصابه بالشلل لستة اشهر وما زال هذا  الشلل مستمر.

لقد اشرنا لكم من قبل بأنه من حققكم كإمام للأنصار بان تتخذ مواقف سياسية توافقية من منطلق مكانتكم الدينية والاعتبارية ولكن لابد من ترك مؤسسات الحزب أن تعمل وفق قرارات أجهزتهومسئوليته الوطنية، فلا بد من أن تفصلوا ما بين رؤيتكم الشخصية ورأي الحزب، وتتركوا الحزب يقوم بمهامه الوطنية.

إن الظرف المفصلي الخطير الذي تمر به بلادنا يتطلب أقصى درجات التجرد والابتعاد عن افتعال المعارك الجانبية وتصفية الحسابات الشخصية. والله من وراء القصد، وهو المستعان.

مبــــــــارك الفاضل المهـــــــــــــدي

السودان

30 أغسطس 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sudanese Summer: The Sudan Revolts One Month On

A SUDANESE SUMMER: THE SUDAN REVOLTS ONE MONTH ON

First featured in Muftah on August 14, 2012 http://muftah.org/a-sudanese-summer-the-sudan-revolts-one-month-on/3/

On the evening of June 16, 2012, female students living in the University of Khartoum dormitories demonstrated against increasing accommodation costs and the government’s general price hikes. Unable to afford a basic meal or bus fare, they took to the streets in protest. Along the demonstration route, the girls passed the men’s dorms where they were joined by their male counterparts.

After marching a few blocks from campus, the peaceful protestors were met with violence as police forces attempted to forcibly disperse the group. While the female students returned to the dorms, they were soon on the streets again, resuming their demonstrations. This time pro-government students affiliated with the National Congress Party (NCP) and National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) officers raided the dorms, verbally abusing students and bombarding the surrounding area with teargas.

Many have debated Sudan’s perceived reluctance to join the Arab Spring, as the country’s situation has arguably been the most conducive to sparking revolution. This impromptu protest by the University of Khartoum’s female students may prove to ignite Sudan’s long overdue uprising.

In the past month, demonstrations have grown beyond student protests to include other youth groups and citizens intent on toppling the regime. This all-encompassing popular movement is not the first of its kind in Sudanese history. Rather, it is a “Sudanese Summer” inspired by previous uprisings in 1964 and 1985 against military dictatorships in Sudan.

Context on the Current Uprising

While the exorbitantly high cost of living compounded by the latest fiscal austerity measures has certainly triggered recent events in Sudan, it would be remiss to view these developments as the sole driving forces behind the revolt. Over the last 23 years, a series of failures have culminated to create conditions conducive to revolution, including:

  • a failure to move beyond divisive politics of ethnicity;
  • the cynical exploitation of ethnic differences to suppress challenges to the ruling regime;
  • a failed economic strategy that has squandered the country’s natural resource wealth, enriching elites connected to the regime, but leaving vast swaths of the population without basic services, employment, shelter and health care; and
  • the politicization and dismantling of institutions, including within the civil service, health and education sectors, which had been among the best performers in Africa;

The NCP, headed by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, came to power through a military coup on June 30, 1989. The Inqaz, or ‘Salvation’, regime (as it came to call itself) combined military dictatorship with ideological fundamentalism under the banner of Islamic rule.

In the years that followed, the regime dismantled Sudan’s civil service and trade union movements using twin policies of ‘For the Public Good’ and tamkeen, or empowerment. The strategy aimed to ensure regime loyalists would hold complete control of both the public and private sectors. The media, school curricula, and even school uniforms were changed to reshape public perception under a policy of ‘Reformulating the Sudanese’.

These efforts were fortified and enforced through the deployment of the Public Order police to further control personal freedoms, particularly those of women. In 2008 alone, 43,000 women in Khartoum were charged under the Public Order law for an array of misconduct crimes. To maintain its power, the regime systematically curtailed basic freedoms, detained and tortured opponents, and maintained a policy of divide and rule fueled by religious discrimination and racism.

NCP policies of patronage and coercion extended to the economic sphere. The regime assumed control of banks, foreign trade, and much of the farm and industrial production sector through the discretionary use of policies favoring businessmen loyal to the regime.

As oil revenues filled state coffers, the NCP captured much of this revenue through a variety of mechanisms, including:

  • through establishing businesses owned by government officials affiliated with the ruling party, or quasi-private enterprises owned by entities such as the Military National Economic Corporation, the Charity Corporation for Supporting the Armed Forces, and the Holding Group of the Security Authorities;
  • favoring NCP-affiliated companies or those headed by former officials in large public tenders; and
  • introducing regulations that enshrined private monopolies, such as Sheikan or Mungash, and that required all state entities to use these companies, in the case of these two companies respectively for insurance and conducting auctions.

The regime capitalized on religious rhetoric and declared jihad to buttress the Sudan Armed Forces in the civil war in the South, a conflict that resulted in the death of over 2.5 million people. While the NCP eventually signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with Southern secessionists in 2005, it failed to implement many of its commitments. Instead of working toward peaceful co-existence, the government cheated the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) of oil accounts and financed proxy wars against it, assuring that 99% of Southern voters would support an independent state in the 2011 referendum.

The relationship between the NCP and the GoSS continues to be contentious. The NCP has failed to finalize post-independence arrangements, which have contributed to the outbreak of conflict with the Republic of South Sudan in the Higlig border area.

When it signed the CPA, Sudan had a world of possibility before it, enjoying peace, substantial revenue, and a boom in Foreign Direct Investment. However, because of inept economic management, these opportunities have been squandered. Sudan increased its dependence on the oil sector, despite the obvious signs that this revenue source was drying up. By 2007, foreign investors grew weary of ongoing political risk and high levels of corruption, resulting in a decline in investment levels.

Meanwhile, the government borrowed to fuel its expenditure binge. It allowed unchecked expansions in public spending. Most of this money would be destined for the security and political sectors, with only a small share going to infrastructure development, industry, and social safety nets. The regime failed to build any type of sovereign fund for future generations or develop its hard currency reserves despite unexpectedly high oil prices in 2007 and onwards. Instead, it managed its currency to bolster GDP through increased consumption, supplied by imports.

Wars in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan that, by the government’s own admission, have cost Sudan approximately US$4 million per day are depleting resources that the country can ill afford in the midst of an economic crisis caused by the loss of oil revenues and litany of other fiscal maladies.

Protests against austerity measures are not about short-term price increases, but the rejection of government attempts to force the poor and middle classes to pay for a decade of economic mismanagement. The regime’s management of oil revenues, which could have transformed Sudan into an emerging economy, has instead become glaring evidence of its pervasive corruption.

Despite US$60 billion in oil exports, the country’s external debt has risen by US$15 billion since the advent of oil production, reaching US$40 billion overall. Agriculture and other productive sectors have been neglected alongside health, water and education. These factors have all contributed to Sudan’s woeful Human Development Index, ranking 169 of 187 overall, the lowest of all MENA countries.

The loss of oil exports has had a resounding impact on the economy: the current account balance has drastically turned into a large deficit, estimated at US$2.4 billion, and the Sudanese pound has depreciated by approximately 125 percent since secession. Inflation continues to accelerate, partly due to the rising cost of basic imported goods, which in turn has increased economic hardship for the poor and vulnerable.

Today, Sudan exhibits the signs of the Resource Curse – an increasingly narrow export and employment base, with manufacturing and agriculture in long-term decline. In an attempt to address its bottom line the government amended its budget for 2012, embracing a comprehensive austerity package of fiscal adjustment and currency depreciation.

These measures have exacerbated the already high cost of living and brought the economy to a tipping point.  In the process, fear and apathy have melted away, and the nation’s youth have risen up in rejection of this storied web of regime failures, employing new techniques of political mobilization and civil resistance to circumvent the regime‘s iron grip.

Events of the Last Month: June-July 2012

The June 16 protests at the University of Khartoum led to similar events at the University’s various colleges and at other universities nationwide. Because of the protests’ unprecedented success, other (non-student) members of society joined the demonstrations. On “Sandstorm Friday”, June 22, 2012, citizens were called upon to congregate in mosques and take to the streets after Friday prayers. The mobilization efforts were successful, and a long day of mass protests ensued lasting well into the night across Khartoum and other cities throughout Sudan, such as El-Obeid and Port Sudan.

In the ensuing two weeks, the momentum continued with several other themed protests (‘Elbow Licking Friday’ on June 29th and ‘Outcast Friday’ on July 6th). On the international level, the Sudanese diaspora in many countries organized solidarity demonstrations. Worldwide protests were scheduled for June 30th, marking the 23rd anniversary of the NCP’s coup d’état and challenging the usual celebrations held by the Party. The most notable of these global protests took place in London, attended by an estimated 1000 people.

The last of the large protests during the first month came on July 16th when hundreds of lawyers from the Khartoum Criminal Court marched to the presidential palace to submit a memorandum urging President al-Bashir to order an end to violence against the protesters and an immediate release of detainees. The lawyers displayed placards denouncing violations of law and human rights by police and security services and chanted slogans calling for the restoration of democracy and regime change. Lawyers in the western region of Darfur held a similar protest outside the house of South Darfur state’s governor.

Far from the scale of Tahrir Square, the protests in Sudan have been relatively small in size, leading to frustrations that the revolution may be stillborn. The government response to the protests has been swift, involving tactics ranging in brutality in order to quickly dissipate the formation of a large, coordinated movement.  Demonstrators have responded with a concerted effort to evade and wear out the disproportionate security response in the hopes of gradually building momentum. The struggle for traction has, however, been an uphill battle.

Challenges Facing the Movement

The security response has played a pivotal role in stifling the protests’ momentum. The government has deployed several containment measures ranging from the use of riot police, tear gas, rubber bullets, and, in a few cases, live ammunition. Retaliation by security forces has been indiscriminate and unrestrained, with attacks on mosques and homes, particularly in the Wad Nubawi district where protests have been the strongest.

Over the past month, the NISS has tracked down and arrested scores of activists, individuals involved in mobilizing the protests, and political figures. While exact numbers are difficult to verify, the Sudanese Commission for the Protection of Rights and Freedoms estimates that approximately 2000 people have been detained. The vast majority of those arrested are being held without charge and due process.

Lack of judicial oversight over the NISS’s activities is particularly concerning. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued a joint call for urgent action demanding the unconditional release of Sudanese activists, including citizen journalist and blogger Usamah Mohamed, GIRIFNA member Rashida Shams al-Din, and now released student activist Mohammed Salah, all of whom were being held incommunicado.

Testimony given by released detainees confirms the use of multiple torture methods, including electrocution.  Anonymous testimony from one ex-detainee details his abduction by plain-clothed officers “on suspicion” of participating in protests. Although he was, in fact, attending a wedding ceremony with friends, he was transferred to a NISS building where he was beaten to the point of vomiting and loss of consciousness. His torture was so severe (he was at one point threatened at gunpoint) that he was released by the NISS for fear he would “die on their hands”. Following release, he sought medical treatment but was turned away from hospitals under a standing directive from the NISS forbidding hospitals to attend to protestors. As confirmed by the Sudanese Committee of Doctors and Vice Specialists, the NISS prevented the provision of medical aid to protestors and intercepted ambulances carrying the injured to hospitals.

Several of those detained in cities throughout Sudan, including in Gedarif, Atbara, and Medani, have resorted to hunger strikes to protest their detention and demand their right to due process. In some cases, the NISS has fabricated charges against activists, referring them to court. These cases include that of Magdi Akasha and GIRIFNA activist Rudwan Dawod. Akasha was released on July 2 but charged with attempted murder. Dawod, whose eight-month pregnant wife was recently interviewed by ABC’s George Stephanopoulous, was arrested along with his father and now PTSD-stricken 18 year old brother on July 3. Faced with charges of terrorism that, if proven, could have led to the death penalty, Dawod’s case was dismissed as “ridiculous” by the presiding judge on August 13, 2012. Flouting the rule of law, the NISS immediately rearrested Dawod outside the courtroom.

Arguably, the lack of coordination and absence of a centralized leadership body have been the greatest constraints on the Sudanese demonstrations. The heavy security crackdown has severely hindered efforts to form a centralized youth leadership to manage the movement. While this lack of centralization has allowed activists to operate under the NISS’s radar, questions remain as to how successful the current, uncoordinated revolt can be. Centralized leadership may be the only viable way of credibly challenging the NCP’s stronghold.

Sudan’s Opposition Parties

Sudanese opposition parties have further complicated matters. While traditionally these parties should have played an instrumental role in organizing mobilization, Sudan’s opposition groups are weak and fragmented.

On July 4, 2012, these groups signed the Democratic Alternative Charter (DAC), a document that unequivocally supports regime change and outlines how the country should be governed after the government’s ouster. The actions of these opposition groups, however, tell a different story. Unsure of the prospects for success, these parties have not taken a definitive stance on the revolt and have instead opted to remain on the fence until the outcome of these events become clear. Understandably, this approach has angered protestors.

Two opposition parties that have historically enjoyed the largest support, the National Umma (NUP) and Democratic Unionist (DUP) parties, fear the political landscape has changed and lack confidence that their followings are sufficiently unified to rally behind the protest movement. In addition, both groups have developed beneficial ties to the regime they seem unwilling to risk.  The DUP is a minority member of the current government. Chairman of the Umma Party, Sadiq Al Mahdi, whose eldest son is an assistant to President al-Bashir, has been openly critical of the regime but has called for reform rather than confrontation, fearing the likelihood of Syrian-like bloodshed and instabilty.

The oppositions’ apparent ineffectiveness is in no small part due to regime efforts to divide these parties and other organized groups perceived as political threats. As a result, the Sudanese opposition is characterized by archaic parties and youth groups with little to no political inclination or experience. With the aid of the regime’s propaganda machine, many have come to question the credibility of the opposition.

Internal dissent against these parties and their decades-long dominance by older generations has long festered and may have now risen to the surface. Large swaths of opposition party members, especially among the youth, have chosen to align themselves with the current revolt while rebuking their parties’ lack of support.

The oppositions’ disengagement might eventually prove to benefit the movement, given the public’s lack of confidence and mistrust of its polarized leaders. While most people are hesitant to take to the streets for reasons of safety, with these leaders in mind, many have justified their reluctance to join the movement with one question: ‘who is the alternative?’

The Alternatives

In Sudan, it is not “who” but “what” alternative is possible. Democratic change is not simply a matter of exchanging one dictator for another, but rather requires changing the entire system of governance. It is not Omar al-Bashir who brought Sudan to where it is now, but rather a sequence of failures and fraudulent policies from a government ill-equipped to run the country. It is this system that has brought Sudan 3 new wars, a bankrupt economy, a dismal education and health system, political detainees, internally displaced people, and tense relations with its neighbors.

The alternatives to this broken system should not be feared as they could not possibly bring worse consequences to the country. The Sudanese people must think outside the box and understand that, just as the current movement for change has been ignited by the people, so to can the solution.

Sudan is blessed with a high caliber of politically neutral professionals with the skills to create an alternative system during a transitional government. During this period, a caretaker government serves the needs of the country and helps lay the foundation for the nation’s democratic future. As Sudanese history has shown, transitional periods are a consistent feature of revolutions.

Media Coverage

All these views could have been communicated to the Sudanese people if the movement had enjoyed adequate media coverage. Media attention to the Sudan uprising has, however, far from satisfied the needs and expectations of its activists. The western media appears to perceive those Sudanese not from Darfur, the Transitional Areas, or border regions as supporting the regime. In reality, however, they are just as much the victims of the country’s dictatorial regime as people from these other regions.

Government violations against journalists have not helped either, with several reporters, including Bloomberg’s Salma Al-Wardani, arrested and later deported. In light of these punitive measures and fearing reprisals, many activists have not engaged in sufficient media outreach. Local media is censored and, while BBC Arabic, Sky News Arabia, and Al-Arabiya in particular have done an admirable job of covering events, none are as powerful and far-reaching in Sudan and the surrounding region as Al-Jazeera and the other indigenous Arabic media outlets.

Al-Jazeera is state-owned and its initial neglect and later damaging portrayal of events on the ground in Sudan seems to indicate that other forces have influenced its coverage. Given the well-known ties between the Qatari government and Khartoum, Al Jazeera’s portrayal of the Sudan revolts has likely succumbed to political pressures.

The movement has compensated for the lack of media coverage by using social media. In Sudan, the effectiveness of social media as a mobilization tool is not as clear as in Egypt or Tunisia. With just under half of the Sudanese population (46.5%) below the poverty line, estimates place internet users at 10-25% of the overall population. As such, relaying information from social media to the masses remains a challenge, while also reinforcing perceptions about the elitist nature of the current uprising.

Social media has, however, proved a useful medium for communicating and documenting events. As one blogger proclaimed, “Dear Media, just as we’ll uproot the tyrants ourselves we’ll report it ourselves.”  Here, the Sudanese diaspora has played an active role. Through Twitter, Facebook and personal blogs, the diaspora has spread the word and garnered international media attention for the Sudan revolts. As compared with their domestic counterparts, members of the diaspora have greater freedom to engage in on-line activism. The NCP’s “Electronic Army” polices social media and other websites, blocking news sites and discussion forums within Sudan and gathering intelligence on anti-government sentiment.  Many inside Sudan have been taken from their homes solely for the opinions they have expressed online.

Conclusion: Prospects for the Future

Ramadan is here – a time for gatherings and daily prayers, and a golden opportunity for recruitment and daily protests after “Taraweeh” prayers. Nevertheless, the communal spirit of the month, as well as continuing restrictions on mobilization and media, have prevented this result from materializing.

While the movement has brought together a broad spectrum of people it remains somewhat elitist, with the most downtrodden sectors receiving little information about the revolts due to media restrictions. Nevertheless, various youth groups inside Sudan have made strides in synchronizing efforts, and some independent unions (doctors, lawyers, transport workers and journalists) are starting to take form.

These professional bodies could potentially play a major role in coordinating strikes and other forms of civil disobedience. For the movement to truly gather momentum, however, all involved parties must agree to support organized change and have a unified vision for the formation of a transitional government made up of independent, qualified technocrats. This would streamline the movement and help combat prevailing doubts, encouraging mass mobilization and increasing pressure for media coverage.

One thing is clear: while there is no ‘magic bullet’ for 23 years of oppression, the process of change is inevitable. The economic outlook for Sudan is dreadful and new developments that add to the deterioration and hardship occur on a monthly basis. In addition to recent austerity measures, which have increased fuel, sugar, VAT, customs and excise duty, and that have devalued the Sudanese pound by 63%, on July 22, 2012, the cost of electricity increased by approximately 300%.

Inflation also reportedly reached 37.2% in June 2012, double the level in the same month one year ago. The cost of food items has also jumped 41.4% from a year earlier while the price of meat, all of it local, has risen by 150% – today, a kilo of meat costs 50 pounds ($11.4 at the official rate) as opposed to 20 pounds one year ago. For July, figures just released by the Central Bureau of Statistics indicate a staggering year on year inflation of 41.6%.

An oil deal recently reached between the Sudanese government and the Government of South Sudan could potentially provide the regime some relief. Details of the deal, however, remain sketchy and will take time to implement and take effect with oil pipelines currently shut down and Southern exports halted. The deal also stipulates that before the oil flows the two governments must first conclude a deal on security to tackle disputed border areas, an issue that has long held up negotiations.

The Sudanese government can ill afford these delays. In the interim, the movement must and will continue. To keep the revolution alive, coordination and momentum will be key. Unplanned, anarchical change may cause damage exceeding that witnessed in Egypt, Libya, or Syria, and must be avoided at all costs. A perturbing precursor to this may have come on July 31, 2012 when 12 people were shot dead and 80 injured by security forces in a high school protest in Nyala. Events like this will do little but further entrench Sudan in a cycle of violence and suffering.

*With a membership spanning the front-lines of Sudan to the Sudanese diaspora, #SudanRevolts is a media team providing updates on the situation in Sudan to the international media.

بيان صحفي حول شهداء الحرية والكرامة في نيالا

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

نسال الله الرحمة لشهداء الوطن الذين سقطوا في نيالا وهم يدافعون عن الحرية والعيش الكريم في هذا الشهر الفضيل المبارك. لقد ظل ابناء دارفور الأشاوس يتصدون لصلف وظلم الانقاذ علي مدي تسع سنوات ضحوا فيها بالغالي والنفيس
فقدوا المال والديار والولد ولكنهم لم يفقدوا عزيمتهم واصرارهم وإيمانهم بالله بانه ناصرهم علي القوم الضالين الظالمين.
ان إصرارهم علي قهر الظلم دفع ابناء وبنات نيالا بان يتصدروا قائمة شهداء ثورة التغيير التي انتظمت البلاد منذ ١٦ يونيو المنصرم، فلهم منا الف تحية وعرفان.
ان هذه الجريمة النكراء يجب ان لا تمضي دون عقاب، ولذا ندعوا الي تحقيق دولي في ما حدث في نيالا والعمل علي منع الجناة من الإفلات عن العقاب.
ان ثورة التغيير قد انطلقت في بلادنا وعلي الانقاذ ان تدرك حقائق التاريخ القديم والحديث بان العنف والقتل لا يوقف إرادة الشعوب في الحرية، فاءرادة الشعوب لا تقهر ولكن ينتهي الطغاة في مزبلة التاريخ.
الله اكبر ولله الحمد

الأربعاء ٨/١/٢٠١٢ مبارك الفاضل المهدي

The Devil Behind the Demon Mask

Wad Nubawi protest before it was dispersed

Originally featured on Muftah.Org http://muftah.org/the-devil-shows-its-face-government-manipulation-of-islam-in-sudan/ 

Following Friday prayer on July 6, 2012, hundreds of men andwomen of all ages gathered outside Sayed Abdelrahman Mosque in the Wad Nubawi district of Omdurman to exercise their constitutional right to demonstrate. Within minutes of its commencementthe peaceful protest was met with a flurry of tear gas grenades and rubber bullets that quickly forced people to rush back and seek refuge within the gates of the mosque.Blood could be seen on the ground and cries sounded of someone being shot. It only took a few moments to discover whose blood had been spiltit was Quteyba the Ansari*, the result of a live bullet fired from a NISS gun to his leg.

Wquickly learned that retreating to mosque grounds would not be as safe as we assumed. Regime authorities advanced to each of the mosque’s exits and released canister after canister of tear gas into the areaThe barrage continued for hours as we chantedwith officers alternating between shooting tear gas and rubber bullets and injuring dozens more in the processUnable to continue unharmed, wsought refuge within the walls of the mosque itself, shutting doors and windows behind us. We knewthat the confined space could be suffocating, but we were in dire need of respite. To our disbelief, the surrounding security forcesthen redirected the tear gas canisters at the doors and windowsof the mosqueFleeting moments of panic passed as we suddenly began to realize that the police and NISS meant to flush us out, making us choose between asphyxiation or escape and imminent capture.

Left with no recourse, a cry for help went out to the locals of Wad Nubawi through the mosque loudspeaker system, whowere trapped in their homes by armed NISS and police vehicles stationed between every few houses in the district. Nonetheless they reacted, climbing their roof tops and pelting the authoritieswith stones, allowing just enough room for us to escape the mosque.

Despite the window of opportunity created by the neighboring residents, very few attempted to leaveWith the smell of tear gas steadily intensifying, the mosque began to resemble a battlefield. Yet worship continued as normal. Refusing to leave one anotherbehind, people took turns at manning the fort to allow others topray Asr, using water to put out incoming tear gas canisters or hurling them back out to the police. The Mahdi’s Rattib** resounded as usual and afterwards revolutionary chants filled the air as protesters cleaned the mosque, which by then was littered with debris from the day’s events. Around Maghreb prayer, police forces finally retreated, allowing protesters to safely leave the mosque

Ansari hurling teargas canisters outside mosque grounds

While these events were shocking as they unfolded, in retrospectthe most lasting effect was witnessing such unabashed hypocrisy from the NCP regimeSudan’s Presidential Assistant Nafie Ali Nafie accuses anti-regime protesters of seeking to “eradicate”Islamic Sharia law in order to make way for a secular state.Real Sharia, as we know, is the emulation of the Prophet Mohamed’s establishment of the first Islamic state in Medina. In his great wisdom, the Prophet Mohamed demonstrated a democratic spirit; he drew up a historically specific constitution based on the (religious/Islamic) principles revealed to him, in the process seeking consensus from all who would be affected by its implementation. The first Islamic state established was constitutional in character and the ruler governed with the explicit written consent of all the citizens of the state. Freedom of religion was guaranteed for all within the Islamic state. TheProphet Mohamed’s interpretation of the Qur’an promotedharmony; it was democratic, tolerant and compassionate. The atmosphere and actions of those in the Wad Nubawi mosque on Friday are what I believe to be reminiscent of the very same tenets taught by the Prophet in governance: devotion, loyalty, compassion, harmony, resilience.

The NCP regime, on the other hand, claiming to rule under the banner of Shari’a law, has effectively desecrated the image of Islam for the past 23 yearsThey have forged civil wars, driving our brethren in the South away, and fostered the kind of divisivereligious incitement that leads to churches being burned in Khartoum. Even in predominately Muslim peripheries such as Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile, thegovernment has systematically marginalized and oppressed raping, pillaging and attempting to eradicate whole tribes – in direct contradiction to basic Islamic tenets and attributes ofpeaceful co-existenceSudanese women – our mothers, sisters and daughters, once pioneers admired across the Muslim world– have been stunted, demonized and ridiculously portrayed as sinful jezebels due to our rulers’ insecurities. NCP Islam has overseen a socioeconomic disintegration that has pauperized the population in favour of the “superior” few. Those corrupt fewnow ask that the Sudanese people, who they have described as“bats”, “vagabonds” and “outcasts, accept theirimpoverishment as the will of God”.

Far from a moral and legal compass, Sharia has been nothing but a political tool used by the NCP to consolidate their hold on power. While some naively believed the rhetoric and ralliedaround ‘the Islamic State’, the majority has known that the regime’s founding ideology has long been perverted by power and greed. In the past, the NCP made an effort, however minimal, to cover up their religious merchandizing, if only as a courtesy. However, when CS gas is fired into a house of worship on specific orders, it seems evident that we are no longer dealing with a regime that can be bothered with even insincere courtesies.

mosque grounds bombarded with teargas

CS gasknown to cause severe pulmonary damage and other serious complications, was outlawed even in war by the terms of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. International law limits its use to police forces as a temporary incapacitant and to subdue attackers or persons who are violently aggressive. The label on the canister itself cautions against indoor use and warns of serious injury or death if aimed directly at peopleThis can be attested by the widowed wife and orphaned children of Amir Bayoumi, killed by the effects of CS inhaled during a similarprotest in Omdurman a week prior. The Center also states that those exposed to CS gas should seek immediate medical attention. This is a ‘luxury’ not afforded to the injuredprotestors, with security forces waiting at hospitals to intercept and arrest them. If this wasn’t ruthless enough, directives have been given to hospitals to deny demonstrator treatment.  

CS tear gas canister collected at Friday’s protest

Many were confused when President Bashir gave a speech stating that from here on, Sharia law would be fully implemented. They mused, if this was the case, what have the last 23 years been about?” The threatening tone of this statement is even more puzzling when considering the true participatory nature of Shari’a law. But to those present in Wad Nubawi the past two Fridays the message is clear: with its power threatened, the devil has removed its mask and shown its true face!

* Ansar are followers of a Sufi religious movement in the Sudanwhose followers are disciples of Muhammad Ahmad AlMahdi (12 August 1844 – 22 June 1885)

** A compilation of the Mahdi’s prayers (du’aas) and sermons that is recited daily after Fajr and Asr prayers by Ansar (both in their homes and mosques).

With contributions and edits by Sara Elhassan and Mohamed Abdel-Razig

Raw Testimony from Released Detainee

The victim has asked to remain anonymous to protect his family from NISS terrorism. However he has outlined his experience in order to expose NISS treatment to help those still detained. Please circulate widely amongst Human Rights Organizations and media. If HR Organizations and media would like to contact him for further follow-up then please DM me on twitter (Usiful_ME) and I will facilitate contact.

On Friday 22nd of June about 11:30pm I was with friends as we left a wedding in Rivera Hall in Omdurman. Me and two other friends got in one car (a Prado) and the rest of the group (two) got in another car. We were supposed to be on our way to eat at Omer Bosch on al Arbeen Street. On the way there, we were hit from behind by a car. We got out to see what had happened and decided to just get back in the car when we saw it was minor. I recognized one of the guys in the other car as Baha Al Din Mohamed Abdallah, Sudan and ex-Merrikh goalkeeper. When we got in the car we were attacked with sticks, whips and metal rods by random people in civilian clothes. We were able to get away because we were in the car. We then got to the Banat traffic light – we thought these we’re protestors. We didn’t realize but they had followed us. They blocked us at the traffic light by a “Getz” and we were attacked by about 20 of them – brutal beatings. Then after throwing me on the road, stomping and kicking they took us on the back of a Toyota pick-up truck faced down, kicking, beating and whipping. The driver of the car we had gotten into the accident with was also arrested with us.

Until this moment I never imagined that these could be law enforcement officers. They took us to a building with a garden with about 50 people arrested all facing the wall. They gave us a presidential reception beating.  I got to know where it was when we were released. It was next to Blue Nile hospital. So after being received by metal rods, wooden sticks and whips we we’re made to stand up. A guy in his late 20’s took me into the garden and put a gun to my head and said if I don’t tell him where I put my weapons (Clashinkov) that he’s going to put a bullet in my head. I was then roughed up for at least an hour and a half. They hit me on my leg really badly although I told them I had a surgery there; so they hit it more. They started saying look how fat he is; why are you protesting fatty? One took a dagger and held my stomach and said “have you ever been hungry?”, “should I pierce your belly?”. They then took my wallet and he saw an old hospital ID from Saudi where I was working before called Guwaa Al Amn (Security Forces Hospital). So he started to tell me “you work for the Saudi security forces”.  I told him I’m a doctor and am on holiday in Sudan from the UK. He said to me, the opposition is in the UK, looks like the new government is yours. After I thought they broke my leg, one of them acting like the nice guy let me sit on a chair but never stopped them from attacking me. He put me on my leg and then one flipped the chair over. I fell back on my head, when I got up one of them struck me with a wooden stick on the back of my neck. I kind of blacked out for a few seconds. I asked them for water so one brought a bottle of water over and poured it over my head. He said “you want water? Your spoiled kind spends 150 million pounds on the type of perfume you use”. He took me to an office and gave me a coffee table to put my leg on. Then everyone would come; threaten, slap, verbally abuse. Then one came over, seemed to be the officer in charge, big light skinned man. He asked me who I was and what happened. I told him. Then he asked who my family was so I told him and he said “really, that’s your grandfather, I know him from ElMerrikh”.  I thought he would let us go, but no effect. Then everyone would pretend to be an economist and say “do you know why the fiscal austerity measures were made?”. They’d talk crap for an hour and talk about Higlig and how they are the real men that were out fighting there. I just played along “really is that why they did the fiscal austerity measures? That’s excellent; I never knew the government was so wise”.

At that point I was taken for interrogation: Name, address, family members, friends, facebook ID and password. Then they took us to a prayer room, made us lie on the floor, they gave me water and after 20 minutes I started losing consciousness and vomited. They started getting worried saying to release me before I died on their hands. They said one of the guys arrested with us had his brothers waiting for us outside – “let them take him”. So they took me to them because they thought I was going to die. They took my wallet, gave me my bank cards and ID cards, and stole the leather wallet and money inside.  They tried to open my iPhone but they couldn’t so they sent it next day with my friends. The brothers took me to Royal Care Hospital who wouldn’t admit me because they said they had orders from NISS not to accept anyone. I was able to check into another hospital, only because the owner is a close family friend. I spent two days in hospital but I continue to have terrible headaches and blurring of vision so have scheduled to have an MRI. Because I’m cluster phobic I’m supposed to get sedation.

Letter from Khartoum – My experience being detained at NISS in 2011

I hadn’t intended to post this article I wrote about my detention at NISS last year (first published in the Independent World Report on April 25th, 2011 http://www.independentworldreport.com/2011/04/letter-from-khartoum/). I felt that doing so would detract attention from today’s detainees who need our full focus. However given the protracted detentions of many students and youth, the growing number of arrests over the last week, and the lack of coverage this has been receiving, I felt it may be beneficial to republish this article which exposes the torture, conditions and brutality to which NISS detainees are subjected What you will read below is quite disturbing, I’ve laced it with as much humor as possible but I was one of the lucky ones and the sad reality is that what detainees go through at NISS is no laughing matter. If you know any of the detainees and have any information on their conditions then please do pass this along to human rights organizations and media and help them get in contact with detainees families – I and many others can help with this. Exposure of NISS treatment and their unperturbed violation of any and all human right laws is the only way we can contribute to improving the plight of today’s detainees.

On January 30, I along with my brother Salah, a few of our friends and relatives took part in a peaceful youth demonstration (a right granted by the Sudanese constitution) on Qasr street in Khartoum. We were protesting against price hikes, tax increases, the state of the economy, corruption, the absence of basic rights and freedoms, and the general state of affairs in Sudan.

Within minutes, the demonstration was attacked by forces who were wearing riot police uniform. We suspect them to be costumed members of al-Amn, National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), as we would later see boxes of police uniforms stashed away in an al-Amn office. Without provocation they laid into us with their batons taking particular joy in snatching and beating female protesters.

Two of our friends, Salah, and I were arrested. Initially we were taken to a nearby al-Amn office, a few doors away from the Republican palace. Here, with arms raised, we were made to stand in the courtyard facing the wall while being whipped and beaten from behind. I quickly came to learn that this was al-Amn’s favoured position. They were not brave enough to face you, and were petrified of the idea of you seeing their faces.

When asked for my name, I gave it in full, “Yousif Mubarak Abdullahi ElFadil ElMahdi.” Their reaction made it clear that I was already under their radar. Immediately they led me, alone, into the office of someone who seemed to be the officer in charge. Here, we went through an hour of good cop, bad cop. The boss would pretend to interrogate me, asking me questions like “Why did you participate in the protest?” or “How did you know that there was a protest today?” Then, he would suddenly leave the office before I even had a chance to answer his questions.

The door would then close and the remaining four officers would attack me – punching, slapping, and kicking. One of them hit me on the head with the leg of a chair. While they were beating me, they were shouting all sorts of accusations, saying that they had been following me the night before when I supposedly organised a meeting to plot the downfall of the ruling National Congress party. I was actually in my home, plotting the downfall of Manchester United at the hands of Southampton in the FA cup. I am not a very good plotter though – Manchester won (they always do).

I was further accused of plotting to install my father into power (an opposition leader, of the Umma Party); then, it was my uncle (Sadiq ElMahdi, former prime minister); then, it was my cousin Mariam Sadiq ElMahdi (one of the officers was gloating about how he had previously arrested her). One of them eventually came to the conclusion that I was actually planning to take over power myself, hence, I was given the nickname prime minister.

From here, we – I, Salah, one of our friends, and another protester – were transported to al-Amn’s political office in Bahri, north of Khartoum. I had not seen Salah for an hour. Now his arm was damaged – heavily swollen, likely dislocated. He was clutching his shoulder.

In Bahri, we were made to crouch in front of a wall in the courtyard with our faces covered with pieces of cloth. Then, al-Amn officers took turns to insult and beat us. Anything went. We were punched, slapped, kicked, struck on the face, head, arms, legs, back, ribs, stomach, groin with whips, metal rods, and batons.

From the voices, I could tell there were about twenty of us. I recognised one of the voices as that of a friend who I did not know was arrested. From what he was saying I could tell that his younger brother was also arrested. The beatings went on for about three or four hours. I could tell the time because both Zuhr (noon) and Asr (afternoon) prayer calls went off while we were being beaten. While crouched facing the wall, I could hear men screaming in agony. It was clear that they were being subjected to torture in rooms nearby.

Shortly after the Asr prayer call, I was taken up to the second floor of a building where I was to be interrogated by three al-Amn officers. The interrogation was led by an officer named Sidoun. His interrogation lacked any structure or construction. For instance, he alleged sexual relations between two members of the Umma party – one a twenty-something male, the other a sixty-something grandmother – and asked me what I knew about that. One of his colleagues asked me to recite surah al-Kafiroon, while another asked if I was a communist.

Once this amusing interrogation was over, I was again made to crouch facing a wall, this time in the second floor corridor. Here, I heard the voice of Mohamed Adil, another friend. Again, I did not know that he was arrested. He was facing the adjacent wall and was clearly struggling. Later, I came to know that he had been electrocuted twice. He also contracted typhoid while in detention. Salah was also there, and the three of us were made to crouch in the corridor until the Asr prayer the following day. Almost twenty-four hours.

We were then led out of the building, across the courtyard and into a holding cell at the back of the compound. This makeshift cell (originally a generator shed) was actually a cage – around 8 x 3 meters in size, with concrete floor and zinc roof. In this cell there were about forty males, mostly students, some as young as eighteen.

Those students had been beaten to a pulp, as was apparent from the blood on their torn shirts. Most could not even walk. One of them crawled over to me. I could tell he was in endless pain. He asked me to cushion his head on my thigh, and then whispered “Did the demonstration take place, was it big?”

At that point, all I could think was how much heart those boys had. They were beaten almost to the point of disability and still wanted to know how the demonstration went. Their spirit was clearly not broken. It was clear that the majority of them had been arrested before the demonstration actually took place – most the night before, suspected of intending to participate.

That is how efficient al-Amn in Sudan is. They can actually read your mind and arrest you for intending something. As the day went by, I managed to quietly talk to most of the detainees. All of them had been tortured, in Bahri and at a number of other al-Amn offices that they were taken to before Bahri. Electrocution and brutal physical beatings were the common methods of torture for all of them. Some of them showed me injuries on their bodies where they were burnt with boiled sugar. A few were also stripped down totally naked and threatened with rape by an officer who would expose his genitals.

The first week we were there was the worst. We were deprived of sleep as anyone caught sleeping during the day would be beaten. Then, we were barred from using the toilet for long periods, depending on the mood of the duty officers. When we did get the chance to use the toilet, which was across the courtyard, officers would crowd around us kicking, slapping, and insulting us on the way there and back. This also happened inside the cage. Officers would come inside to attack and insult us.

We were given very little food. And there were absolutely no family phone calls, or contact with lawyers. Despite many being injured, ill, or both, there were no doctors. The worst treated were two Darfuri students, and a student belonging to the United Popular Forces, from Gezira. Those three were clearly singled out and accused of “attempting to give the Darfuri movements a national flavour.”

After the first week, Ibrahim Almaz, El-sir Gibreel Tiya, and other senior members of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) were brought into our cage. al-Amn captured them in Darfur. From that point, we were largely left alone as the JEM members took over the attention and ire of the officers.

Almaz and his comrades were blind-folded and cuffed at the arms and feet. They were beaten endlessly with chains in front of our eyes; and, barred from using the toilet, sometimes for up to twenty-four hours. Every midnight, they were summoned and taken out of the cage. When they were returned to the cage a few hours later we could clearly see how badly they had been tortured. Gibreel Tiya had deep cuts on his feet which were swollen and looked infected.

Other Darfuris were also brought in and out at various times, from Kober and Dabak prisons where they had been held for twelve to thirty-six months. al-Amn accused them of being JEM loyalists. Most were middle-aged and old men who had been detained from all over Sudan. After talking to them, it was clear that their real crime was being somehow related to Khalil Ibrahim, the leader of the JEM. Ironically, one of them was actually a member of the National Congress when he was arrested eighteen months ago.

One of them has twelve children (the eldest of them is twenty-two), and a wife back home in Halfa where he was arrested. The charges levelled against him were dropped by the prosecutor general over a year ago, on the grounds of lack of evidence. However, instead of releasing him, al-Amn just renewed his detention. He is forty-eight, but you would swear he looked at least sixty. Almost three years of prison had clearly taken the toll but he would not accept any sympathy for his plight.

Another cuffed and blind-folded detainee was actually a soldier in the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) who was captured by JEM forces, and then recaptured by al-Amn during an attack on the JEM. As much as he tried to convince the al-Amn officers of his loyalty, it mattered little as he was from Darfur – a punishable offence in today’s Sudan.

The hatred, brutality, and prejudice those Darfuris were subjected to can not be fully described and all I could think was how in a million years would we be able to achieve peace in Darfur given the treatment meted out to its people by al-Amn. And this was not just in detention facilities, the officers regularly boasted of their conquests in Darfur – burning and pillaging villages.

On February 7, I was taken to my second interrogation, on my eighth day in detention. This time I was interrogated by an officer named Fadlalla, from Kosti. The same officer who exposed his genitals to Mohamed Adil while threatening to rape him. That interrogation was stranger than the first one.

Fadlalla was playing solitaire on his computer. There were long pauses between his questions as he thought of what to ask next. His questions were ridiculous: “If you were to get married would your wife also participate in demonstrations?” Amused, I responded that I could not answer that question since I had not met her yet. Then, he asked me to to predict whether she would or would not. You can imagine how the rest of the interrogation played out.

On February 13, a student member of the Democratic Unionist Party who had previously been arrested and released was re-arrested and brought back to our cage. That was for disclosing, through his Facebook account, details of the torture endured by the detainees. He was made to kneel on his knees with his arms raised and his feet off the ground, for full afternoons. A few days earlier, he underwent a surgery resulting from a car accident. At night, he was taken out of the cage, poured with freezing water and then beaten incessantly. We sat inside the cage helplessly listening to his groans and screams.

On February 16, the last day of my detention at al-Amn Bahri office, I was summoned to a final interrogation. This time I was interrogated by five al-Amn officers whom I did not encounter before. Each of them had a role to play: the conductor; the good guy; the bad guy; the silent guy who would occasionally quip, “This does not make any sense;” and, the tough guy who made the violent threats. The interrogation was split into two parts.

The first part was trying to implicate me as the organiser of the January 30 protest (supposedly, I was working according to my father’s instructions). They insisted that we were plotting in secret, holding clandestine meetings to attack the Republican palace in order to take over power. The funniest part was when they made reference to my birthday, January 29, and how holding the demonstration on January 30 confirmed that I was its organiser. When I laughed and offered, “Why not hold it on January 29 then,” I was told not to be smart.

The second part was an attempt to solicit information about my father with questions like “Tell us your father’s secrets,” or, “Play out an everyday conversation between you and your father.” Then, they started accusing me of being an economist, as if it was a crime. They continued, “Did your father ever ask you to prepare any economic papers for him?” Proudly I answered, “Yes.” For some reason they were shocked with my answer and fell silent before asking for examples.

I gave them some: “The effects of the global economic crisis on Sudan,” “The effects of South Sudan’s separation on North Sudan’s economy,” “Dutch disease in Sudan,” and various national budget evaluations. They asked me why he would want such information. I answered that he was a well-read man and liked to keep informed. Deep down, I wanted to say, “So that he can use it against you, silly.” One of them did that for me, exclaiming to his colleague, “He does economic spotting for his father, you idiot!”

Idiot he was, so were the rest of them.

That afternoon, I was released, feeling sad to leave so many behind. We are in an economic crisis and Sudan is faced with stagflation (one of the main reasons for demonstrating in the first place), due in very large part to the colossal amount of money allocated for feeding the intelligence services. For nothing – they are a complete farce.

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