The Military Council’s bloody crackdown won’t crush the revolution
Forces of repression deployed June 3, 2019 around the headquarters of the army in Khartoum. In the foreground, victims. Photo Ashraf Shazly / AFP
From the day it took power in a military coup, it was clear that Sudan’s Military Council led by Gen. Abdelfattah Burhan and his deputy Muhammad Hamdan Dagolo (Hamidati) never had any sympathy for the popular protest movement. Since then, it has been trying to create opportunities to put an end to the mass demonstrations and, in one way or another, repeat the example of Egypt’s military rulers. So it came as no surprise when forces loyal to the Council launched Monday’ brutal assault on peaceful protestors in Khartoum, killing (at this writing) at least 30 and injuring scores.
The negotiations the Military Council held with protest leaders over the past few weeks were a ruse aimed at gaining time while it put its affairs in order — both domestically and in terms of regional backing. It never had any intention of transferring power to a civilian authority or even merely allowing the Declaration of Freedom and Change forces a role in government, not even token representation.
Sudanese demonstrators unravel the streets to block the road to the armed forces who want to disperse the sit-in in front of the headquarters of the army, June 3, 2019 in Khartoum. Photo Ashraf Shazly / AFP
The Military Council betrayed the protestors and knifed them in the back. They will never be able to trust or negotiate with it again. It may manage to break up the protest camp in the capital by force, but it certainly will not be able to crush the revolution. This massacre will only inflame it.
Burhan is following fully in the footsteps of his deposed predecessor, former president Omar al-Bashir. That was apparent at the weekend when he swapped his military uniform for a civilian suit and took Sudan’s seat at the Arab and Islamic summits in Mecca, without a single civic movement representative in his delegation. He was intent from the outset on taking power for himself, and his claim that he stepped in to prevent Bashir from using force against the protestors has been shown up as the height of hypocrisy and deceit. He has behaved since day one like a power-hungry dictator, taking strategic sovereign decisions on Sudan’s behalf with no consultation and without any legal authority or mandate. He has committed to keeping the country in the Saudi-UAE coalition in the unpopular Yemen war, sided with the pro-US camp in regional affairs, and now he is applying the Egyptian model at home.
Al-Buhran and Hamidati
Burhan and Hamidati’s bid to establish a repressive military dictatorship can only cause chaos and instability. It means undoing all the achievements of the protest movement and taking the country back to square one. But the Sudanese people have shown great patience and resilience and an impressive degree of political maturity and awareness. They will not allow their peaceful protest movement to be squandered but will escalate it until the Military Council has been deposed and a civilian democracy established.
It is significant in this regard that former prime minister Sadeq al-Mahdi’s Umma Party came out strongly against the crackdown, after having previously supported the idea of the Military Council leading the country for an interim period. This decisive U-turn by Sudan’s biggest political party is an admission of the failure of the policy of appeasement and sitting-on-the-fence it has pursued since the start of the protest movement, in the woefully misplaced belief that the Military Council’s members were well-meaning patriots.
By turning on the protest movement so viciously, the Military Council is set to lose whatever trust and support it may have retained among the Sudanese people. We could well see a third coup or a fourth or splits in the army or mutinies against its commanders. The rank-and-file sided with the protest movement and its demands. They will not accept this betrayal and blood-letting of their compatriots and their aspirations for freedom, equality and social justice in a democratic civilian state.