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‘Their Blood is Not Dry’ - the Impact of Revolution on Sudan

Disclaimer: The views expressed are that of the individual author. All rights are reserved to the original authors of the materials consulted, which are identified in the footnotes below.

By Rachel Basten

The coup that ended the 30-year dictatorship of Omar-al Bashir, on the 11th April 2019, created the allusion of finality: a dramatic end to the decades of repression and misrule across Sudan. Over the last two years, however, such revolutionary fervour has largely ceded itself to the harsh pragmatism and compromise of politics. In a country that has previously been plagued by civil war, a consequence of the conflicting religious tensions between the north and south, the transitionary period of government has been beset by difficulties.[1]

The current Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, a former official for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, faced unprecedented economic and social conditions making the prospect of a peaceful transition seemingly untenable from the outset. According to a 2008 report from the World Bank, Sudan was acknowledged for its emerging significance in the oil market – shifting its economic infrastructure from agriculture to oil.[2] Unsurprisingly then, the cecession of the south in 2011 has unearthed a multitude of problems: the loss of three-quarters of Sudan’s oil reserves has deeply affected the development performance of the nation.[3] Without US backing Sudan cannot access multilateral lending, prohibiting banks and financial businesses from investing and faces a further challenge in writing off $60bn from previous debts.[4] With this evident debt overhang problem, can the country truly move forward as external financial troubles and hyperinflation deter economic growth?[5]

From a legal perspective, the Political Agreement of the 17th July 2019 called for a reform program to ‘rebuild’ and ‘develop’ the justice rights system over a 39-month period.[6] The draft constitution recognised the future ‘decentralisation’ of the Sudanese republic, with inherent focus also placed upon ‘equality and democracy’ – a sharp break from the precedent set by Bashir.[7] Yet, Nabil Adib, a human-rights lawyer, has suggested that there has been some confusion in forming new constitutional arrangements. In particular, he expressed his disappointment and regret at failing to nominate a parliamentary body - as stipulated in the draft constitution.[8]

Nonetheless, the transitional government’s peace deal with the Sudanese rebels, the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, seems to provide a lifeline for peace. The central component of the deal is to halt the fighting, and subsequent violence, in Darfur in western Sudan and in the southern regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The United Nations Security Council have also formed the ‘Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan’ with the aim to implement all ‘human rights, equality, accountability and rule-of-law provisions in the Constitutional Document’.[9] There have been some successes with the ban of some Islamist laws, including bans on apostasy – a step in encouraging greater religious and political pluralism. Women have also been afforded greater freedoms such as the right to travel alone.

Yet, further compounding the fragile socio-political climate of Sudan, the absence of sustained and credible prosecutions for the Khartoum massacre, which killed 120-150 civilians, still suggests that many questions concerning Sudan’s past have been left unanswered. The use of excessive and disproportionate force to dissipate the peaceful protests was initially denied by The Transitional Military Council, the nation’s former ruling body.[10] Yet, live-stream footage highlighting the unwarranted gun-fire and violence soon repudiated this statement as void.[11] The question remains then as to what next? In an interview with Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières, an activist from the Human-Rights group - the Sudanese Professionals Association - stated that members from across the nation were mobilised by the revolution. Emotive pleas of mothers called for the protestors to continue: ‘we see our sons in your eyes. So their blood is not yet dry’.[12] However, the very nature of the massacre which occurred after the coup which forced Bashir to resign suggests that Sudan faces a steep up-hill slope in the formation of a peaceful nation.

As of today, then, destabilising forces do not seem far from the surface. Yet, with a multi-party election promised for late 2022, and the formation of a parliament underway, the future looks considerably brighter.


Image: Mohanad Hashim, ‘In pictures: The art fuelling Sudan's revolution’ (BBC News [Khartoum], 4 May 2019) <> accessed 19 February 2021

[1] ‘Sudan country profile’ (BBC News, 9 September 2019) <> accessed 15 February 2021 [2] Samia Satti Osman Mohamed Nour, ‘Assessment of the Impact of Oil: Opportunities and Challenges for Economic Development in Sudan’ [2011] 2 African Review of Economics and Finance 122 [3] Ministry of Welfare and Social Security [National Population Council], Sudan National Voluntary Report <> accessed 15 February 2021 [4] Andres Schipani, ‘After the revolution, Sudan battles ‘disastrous economy’ Financial Times (Nairobi, 27 September 2020) <> accessed 15 February 2021 [5] Mutasim Ahmed Abdelmawla Mohamed, ‘The Impact of External Debts on Economic Growth: An Empirical Assessment of the Sudan: 1978-2001’ [2005] Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review 21 [6] ‘Sudanese military and protesters reach full agreement on power-sharing deal’ The Guardian (Sudan, 3 august 2019) <> accessed 16 February 2021 [7]‘Sudan’s Constitution of 2019’ (2019) <> accessed 17 February 2021 [8] David Pilling, ‘Sudan faces hard road to democracy as revolutionary euphoria fades’ Financial Times (Africa, 26 January 2021) <> accessed 16 February 2021 [9]‘Security Council Establishes UNITAMS’ (United Nations Sudan, 4 June 2020) <> accessed 18 February 2021 [10]‘Sudan’s Violent Crackdown on Protesters in Khartoum’ (Human Rights Watch, 17 November 2019) <> accessed 18 February 2021 [11] ‘Sudan’s livestream massacre’ (BBC News, 12 July 2019) <> accessed 19 February 2021 [12] ‘Sudanese Professionals Association’ (Government of the Netherlands) <> accessed 19 February 2021

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