Mosques rejoicing with the celebratory call of “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, la illaha ila Allah!” (God is Great, God is Great; there is no god but God) Violinists playing “Ana baladi”. Soldiers kissing their elders on the forehead. Students, teary-eyed and humbled by the sheer mass of people chanting “tsgut bas”. And a woman standing atop a car, her finger raised to the sky with the call of freedom bellowed to the furthest regions of Sudan, vibrating through the veins of social media; a glorious victory for all Sudan. On 11 March 2019, freedom is no longer a dream. Sudan is at a standstill, a vivid realisation of the prospects of a better Sudan; a Sudan that used to only exist in the lyrics of Mohammed Wardi’s songs, is finally here.
Whenever I am asked to describe Sudan to those unfamiliar with the country, I usually say that it is a country with free healthcare, not because the law or government dictates it, but because every person has a relative, a friend or an acquaintance that is, or who knows, a doctor. For those who do not, there are the altruists hovering outside hospitals, with wads of cash looking to pay off medical bills. It’s a place where, from the age of consciousness every Sudanese person is assigned a duty, an obligation, to their country and its people; and throughout one’s life there is a homunculus, hidden in the darkest chambers of the mind, to remind us constantly of our duties. Only when the smooth and merciful scythe of death swooshes, and separates the spirit from the corporeal body, are we emancipated from these obligations. The first words after a person’s passing, after “may they rest in peace”, is “jahiz”, meaning “ready”; the person has fulfilled his duties and they are now ready to be liberated. A place where the two Niles meet. A place where you can find almost all kinds of terrain. A place with no shortage of ethnicities. A place with a history stretching back thousands of years before Jesus, peace be upon him. A place that inspires crippling awe with its beauty.
In Sudan today, the people rejoice, only briefly. The president has been ousted, and in his stead there are military personnel in charge of the country. The people are all too familiar with military rule, and they will not be silenced for another 30 years. Even though the military announced a 2-year transitional period, this does not seem to appease the popular protest. What now? There seems to be a political cycle in contemporary Sudanese history, where absolute military governing systems do not allow for political diversity, and so all efforts to counter military hegemony are quashed and oppressed. The oppression accumulates to mass indignation, and manifests in the form of a revolution only to be traded in for another hegemony. Protesters fear the repetition of this cycle. With that being said, Sudan has been plagued with countless militia groups and armies that are loyal to different factions. In addition, there needs to be a transitional period, in order to establish electoral systems; to identify protesters’ demands; and to allow oppressed parties and political opposition to recuperate and coalitions to be formed.
In order to ensure that the precarious transitional period does not linger indefinitely, a number of measures need to be taken. Chief amongst them is that the leader of the transitional committee should not have intimate ties with the old regime; this is a new Sudan, not a new version of the old Sudan. War criminals or leaders of Sudan’s NISS, a government apparatus whose sole purpose is to silence any opposition to the government should not be anywhere near the position. They would employ a range of draconian practices to silence critics, from recording sexual assault in hidden torture places — the “ghost houses” — which are later used as blackmail to silence critics, to outright murder.
Secondly, the transitional government should include neutral observers; persons who do not have a vested interest in the outcome of the result to ensure that the members of the committee do not use this platform for political campaigning. The neutral members should preferably be constitutional lawyers, political scientists and economists who are aware of the reality of Sudan.
Thirdly, along with the transitional committee, there should be a military panel in charge and ready to protect and defend the country’s borders and protestors in this critical time. Again, the members should not be allied with the previous regime.
Finally, the transitional government should have a clear objective, and should set up nationwide voting systems in the shortest time possible, preferably no later than six months from now. During this time, all vital ministries should run as they are, until ministers are appointed by the newly-elected government. The upper strata of the NISS should be dismantled, and the military panel should seize control.
This is a critical moment for Sudan, a moment where the dream, through the magic incantations of “tsgut bas”, can become reality. The accumulation of hurt and suffering, and the wish for a better Sudan has come to this moment. We can progress from tyrannical rule, from institutional oppression, and from cripplingly dire economic and political reality. Stand we will; strong and with heads held high. Jahzeen, we are ready.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.