History is repeating itself in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. In an effort to force President Omar al-Bashir to step down, anti-government protest groups led predominantly by women, union leaders, and members of the working class have taken the streets of the capital. There, they march to military bases in order to force the military to protect them.
How is history repeating itself? According to anthropologist Amal Hassan Fadlalla, Sudan has had two revolutions very similar to the one going on today. One in 1964, and another in 1985–both centered around economic duress within the country and a desire to transition to a multiparty democratic system. Once the military took control of the country after both uprisings, attempts were made in democratizing Sudan. Unfortunately, they were short lived, and after the revolt of 1985, Omar al-Bashir seized control of the country through a coup d’etat. He has been in power for the past thirty years.
During his thirty years in power, al-Bashir has been charged by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and genocide, he has taken economic advice from Chinese government officials and other international allies that has driven the cost of living in Sudan to such extremes that sustaining the bare minimum is impossible. Skyrocketing prices for fuel and food brought about a wave of protests in December, but this has evolved into something beyond bargaining for the cost of living.
The polity report on Sudan shows at one point, there was a steady incline in democratization, but in recent years, the country has become divided (North and South Sudan) which therefore caused a drastic decline in democracy. There is a restrictive competition in the country, and given the circumstances of the current political climate, would make sense. Many of the female-led anti-government groups at the helm of the uprising are deeply unsatisfied with the lack of party variety in the country. The groups that do exist are mostly conservative and hyper-religious–women are at the bottom of their agenda.
Yet it is the women of Sudan who are effectively strategizing themselves to lead the country down a path of democracy. They are painfully aware of the lack of media attention and international intervention their movement is receiving, so they have been essentially demanding the military protect them. Their movement gains traction on a daily basis, and it has intensified tremendously since December.
This type of populist uprising reverberates all over the globe–from the Yellow Jacket movement in France, to both sides of the Brexit argument, to social justice movements in America. However, as this movement intensifies, can the Sudanese finally sustain a transition of power? Or will they be subjected to the empty promises of Populist leadership that leads to regimes similar to Al-Bashir’s taking over?