Amal Hassan Fadlalla, Associate Professor Anthropology & Afroamerican and African Studies, Featured on Africa Up Close
Sudan’s protest reached its peak on April 6, 2019—the anniversary day of the April 1985 uprising—when it turned into a sit-in in the front of the military headquarters in Khartoum. From December 19, 2018, until the deadly crackdown on the sit-in on June 3, 2019, protesters faced the bullets of snipers shooting at them randomly from different directions; they mourned, picked themselves up, and kept chanting “peaceful, peaceful,” as they buried their loved ones.
The sit-in was successful and toppled President Omar al-Bashir. Fearing that their movement would be hijacked like other Arab Spring movements, the protesters continued to sit-in until another member of the Transnational Military Council (TMC) was removed. They finally accepted to negotiate with a second version of the TMC despite the fact that the new members too had a strong connection with the old regime. The new TMC, however, vowed not to fire a single bullet at protesters and that it will acknowledge the role of the protest leadership—Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC). Alas, the horrendous massacre carried against the peaceful protest is nothing but a new brand of the same violent tactics that the old regime used throughout its reign to establish its deeply entrenched sharia state and subdue its opponents. After the massacre, the TMC cut internet services and spread militia and security forces across the streets of the capital city, Khartoum, to further silence activists and crush the protest.
Fake News and the Power of Live Podcasts (Livat)
As an anthropologist observing from afar, I followed the protests by viewing protesters’ daily podcasts from the sit-in site. These savvy global citizens and citizen journalists used the power of social media correctly and documented their own struggles. Social media enabled them to send their voice out when international media was not fully engaged, and when Sudan’s pro-government media was biased. They called their daily and lengthy podcasts livat (Arab-English for live podcasts).
When the negotiation between the TMC and FFC reached stalemate towards the end of the holy month of Ramadan, protesters did not lose hope that a fair deal could still be made. Some even hoped that their national leaders would deliver this fair deal as a gift for Eid Al-Fitr celebration. The sit-in became their new network of family, neighbors, and friends as they broke their fast and prayed together. It became a miniature Sudan, full with tents that protesters used as platforms to discuss important social and political issues. Protesters recited poetry and sang for love, peace, and freedom; they painted walls with triumphant images of hope and progress, they cleaned the streets and fed street kids; they played music and found solace in national songs. Above all, they made sure that the memory of the martyrs remained alive in their chants.