Tens of thousands of Sudanese marched the streets of Khartoum and the nearby cities of Omdurman and Khartoum North on Sunday in what organizers dubbed a Million Man March for civilian rule. The government’s Rapid Support Forces, better known as the Janjaweed, attempted to put down the protests with force, just as they had previous demonstrations, deploying tear gas and firing live rounds into the crowd. The Sudan News Agency reported 181 people had been injured, 27 of whom received gunshot wounds, and that seven others died Sunday.
The revolution in Sudan began in December of last year, but longtime dictator President Omar al-Bashir clung to power until April, when a series of stunning victories saw both Bashir and his replacement, Ahmed Ibn Auf, resign on successive days. The victories were wind in the sails of protesters, who occupied the street outside the headquarters of the military council that took power amid Ibn Auf’s departure. They demanded a rapid transition to civilian rule, while the Transitional Military Council promised years of transitional rule. Only unleashing the Janjaweed, a fierce tribal militia notoriously responsible for the 2003 genocide in Darfur and more recently for fighting as mercenaries in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, caused the protesters to disperse.
On June 9, a nationwide general strike paralyzed business and transportation as millions of people stayed home instead of going to work. However, no great demonstrations occurred that day. Rather, Sunday’s demonstration was the first major action since the June 3 massacre, and one activist, Hajooj Kuka, a filmmaker and member of the Sudanese nonviolent resistance movement Girifna, joined Radio Sputnik’s By Any Means Necessary Monday to talk about the march and what it meant for the Sudanese revolution.
Kuka said that he and other protesters who marched on Sunday were warned against demonstrating by others, who told them, “You guys are crazy to go out, because the Janjaweed militias are just going to kill you,” but they marched anyway.
“It was a big show of power, that these people still want change, they're not scared, and they came out in numbers,” Kuka told hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon. “So, we’re very excited, and we think this is the momentum we need to go back and ask for our civilian government.”
“At this point, at what happened yesterday, and this trend of being able to organize a million-man march when internet is cut, where we can’t communicate through the net, which is the main way we were communicating before. So we had to use graffiti on walls inviting people to come out to the protest; we had to print out prints and pass them around, so suddenly they realized that even if internet is cut, people can organize. And I think this is the big thing, this was the big test: they thought we were not going to be able to reach everybody; people would not know about this, and they wouldn’t be able to come out. So this proves that people can organize without internet. People can organize on the ground and bring each other out.”
Kuka said that now the Transitional Military Council and the Janjaweed “know that this can become bigger, people can come out. So I think now the tables are turned again. So it’s the people who are actually the revolutionaries who want us to go all the way through the street until this government collapses and the Janjaweed are out. And then there’s the negotiation, which is done through the African Union and Ethiopian delegation. That is the only way out for these military people, for the Janajweed, to take a way out that they’re not going to be ousted and put in jails and whatnot.”
“So for them [the military council], I think they’re rushing toward that. We heard that yesterday, before we even finished our movement and our march, they already asked to sit down with the politicians, the Forces of Freedom and Change, who are the political branch of the movement on the ground. So they sat with them yesterday, they sat with them today, and now they are trying to find a way out,” Kuka told Sputnik, noting that other nations like the US had also sent representatives to the meetings.
“At the same time, people are already organizing for what’s going to happen on Thursday, when it’s the next Million [Man] March, which is going to be on the 13th [of July], 40 days after the funeral of people who died on the 3rd of June,” Kuka said, referring to the Janjaweed-led massacre of protesters outside the military headquarters in Khartoum in which, according to reports by doctors, 128 people died. “So there’s a lot of movement, and people are excited.”
Kuka said that people who experienced the death and chaos of June 3 had in many cases lost their direction and purpose until Sunday’s march. “I couldn’t move forward. I couldn’t believe that I could actually walk in the street and feel safe any more,” Kuka said a street medic told him. “The march switched that; the march made me feel strong again. I could chant, I could ask for my freedoms, for my rights, for the people who died, and I’m in solidarity with all these people, and we are millions in the streets, and I feel strong again. I feel like I can move on with my life.”
“After yesterday, I think we are ready to go back again to fight,” Kuka said. “Yesterday is just for us, and the real fight is going to come afterwards.”
Kuka said that a wedge between the National Security Services - who are loyal to the Bashir regime - and the Janjaweed had created a situation in which fewer activists were being detained, although he noted that more were being killed.
“The Janjaweed, they use bullets and killing and rape and whatever, all these other methods, more than they use National Security and whatnot, which is a reason why we were able to operate without internet more freely, because we are all out in the open. Before, activists used to be underground and hiding, and now we don’t have that choice: we have to call each other on the phone, we have to go meet each other, we have to meet with all the leaders on the ground and the grassroot, and the grassroot is a huge number of people. So a lot of people are moving in ways that National Security can track us - and they’re not arresting us,” Kuka said.