Tag Archives: Popular resistance

Why the Popular Resistance Must Break the Political Stalemate in Sudan

Image: March in Medani City, 31st May 2022. Source: Facebook Medani Resitance Committee

The Sudanese people marked the third anniversary of the horrific massacre during a peaceful sit-in on Friday 3rd June 2019. Hundreds of thousands came out to commemorate the lives lost. Parents of those young men who were slain joined protests with the intent of showing that their sons had not lost their lives in vain.

That tragic day was followed by a march of millions and a general strike on 30th June 2019. The general strike closed down all the economic sectors and put the army power elite on the defensive. It caved in to sign a transitional agreement with the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), an umbrella organisation of some 22 civil society groups on 17th July witnessed by the African Union, the UN, the US, the EU and League of Arab States. It was legally binding on all the parties.

A Sovereignty Council to rule Sudan was set up where power was equally shared between the Military Council (TMC) and the FFC for a period of 39 months with the military officer chairing for the first 21 months followed by a civilian for the remaining period. This was to be followed by national elections.

A constitutional charter was agreed, signed and sealed on 17th August 2019. This legally binding charter set out all aspects of the transitional to democracy asserting the primacy of law, respect for dignity, equality before the law, the powers of various bodies, the setting up of a legislative assembly, the setting up of commissions (judicial, electoral, etc) and provision for a bill of human rights amongst others. If adhered to, this would have led Sudan towards a liberal democracy peacefully.

A transitional government led by Abdullah Hamdok was installed in September 2019 with a civilian cabinet. The government immediately faced a persistent economic crisis. It turned to the US to lift sanctions. Trump did that in return for Sudan establishing relations with Israel.

The easing of sanctions and the opening up of a credit line through the IMF and World Bank came with the condition of imposing austerity. This aggravated endemic high inflation, further imposing hardship on the already impoverished population. The government has only 16 percent of the national budget under its control. The first attempt by the government to bring the massive commercial assets owned by the military under civilian control failed because of its failure to fully disclose the financial assets held by the military companies.

The continuing economic crisis also gave the military power elite to exploit the weaknesses in the transitional agreement. General Burhan acted as a de-facto Head of State. His deputy Hemeti controlled the economic committee. He also had a free hand in determining foreign policy by signing agreement with regional partners.

The coup by the military power elite on 25th October 2021, just before a civilian was supposed to take over the chairing of the Sovereignty Council, was a fatal blow to the transition to democracy. It annulled the constitutional charter and all agreements for a peaceful transition. The Prime Minister, ministers and civilian political leaders were arrested.

Massive resistance from below followed with millions coming out on the streets and marching. The military as usual responded with excessive violence. Even tear gas canisters for crowd control became lethal when fired directly at the protestors, leading to in some cases blindness. Since the coup there have been 101 deaths and over 4,500 injuries, with eight being paralysed and 35 losing limbs or organs. 

But the popular resistance is undeterred. Democracy has become a great cause, a collective ideal for the Sudanese. It is through this collective struggle that the Sudanese people are discovering who they are and who their enemies are. The trust, if there was any, between civil society and the military was irredeemably broken.

To allay public anger at the coup and the criticism from Western powers, the military released Hamdock on 21st November when both parties signed a 14 point agreement. There were widespread protest against this deal which was rejected by the civil society groups.

In view of the non-cooperation by civil society organisations, PM Hamdock failed to form a civilian government.  He resigned on 2nd January 2022, bringing the second attempt to form a civilian government facade for the military elite to an end.

General Burhan moved on to set up a new Sovereignty Council with self-selected military officers and civilians. He excluded leaders from the FFC, completely indicating his intention of not letting any radical civilian forces anywhere near power. He also set out to rule and divide the civilian opposition.

Of all the opposition forces, the Sudanese Professional Association was a leading force, both historically and in the first phase of the revolution. But the emergence of the Resistance Committees across Sudan since December 2018 has made them the leading force. They are unique neighbourhood grassroot organisations which co-ordinate a range of social activities besides co-ordinating protests in their local areas. They are democratic and non-hierarchical and decisions are arrived through consensus.  They combine together in larger units through representation across cities and states. The over 5,000 Resistance Committees across the whole state of Sudan have become a formidable political force.

The military power elite see the Resistance Committees as a major threat. Members of Resistance Committees across Sudan are being targeted by widespread surveillance. They are intimidated, their houses are raided, they are illegally detained and there have been reports of torture and disappearances. Up to now 1,600 resistance committee members have been locked up.

The United Nations and African Union missions are mediating between the civil society organisations and the military power elite to resolve the situation peacefully. But these missions fail to take into account the realities of power on the ground. The SPA and Resistance Committees have boycotted this mediation, fearful of betraying their revolutionary goals.

Given the betrayal of the military power elite, its use of excessive violence and the sacrifices made by the people, the popular resistance has taken a position that they will not share power with the military. The rallying cry from them is “No negotiations, No partnership, No compromise”. They want the military to be held accountable for the deaths, injuries and rapes. They want reparative justice and the military out of politics and confined to the barracks.

The regional powers Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt are backing the military power elite to the hilt without any reservations. These authoritarian regimes have no wish to see popular democracy in Sudan.

The United States as a hegemon in the region has immense financial leverage over Sudan. Although it pays lip service to democracy, its record of supporting democracy in Africa is abysmal. At best, it has supported managed democracies where parties which are subservient to it get into power. Together with European countries, the US wishes to see a peaceful resolution through the UN mission.

Thus we have a political stalemate in Sudan. The deeply entrenched, parasitic military power elite which stands above society, ruling through clientelist patronage and its monopoly of violence, is faced a popular resistance which wants the military elite to be removed from political power and its wealth being taken into public hands.

The military power elite’s counter-revolution has failed thus far. But it is not inactive politically in seeking ways in which to retain power. It has recently released the bureaucrats of the al-Bashir era who have returned to their posts in key ministries, the judiciary and the media.

It had also started to rehabilitate al-Bashir’s banned National Congress Party (NCP) which had been the Islamic front for the dictatorship and had political committees controlling localities over 30 years. There is talk of it building a ‘broad Islamic front’ rooted in the Arab Islamic identity that has been politically fought for over decades. NCP supporters especially women were allowed to demonstrate during the emergency without hindrance.

The apparent calculation seems to be that the military power elite would call and manage the next election around July 2023. Can there be any doubt that the military, with its control of the media and ballot boxes, will not ensure that its cronies win legislative power? Such an outcome would be a disaster for the popular resistance forces.

Recently, the Resistance Committees have put forward proposals for the formation of a ‘People’s Authority’ which are out for consultation for a final agreement. This agreement seeks to address all the issues about how Sudan will be governed and managed democratically.

However, it not clear how the ‘People’s Authority’ will be formed and through what mechanism.  There seems little doubt in my mind that the popular resistance needs to call a nationwide Constituenty Assembly which will be represent all the civil society organisations.

The aim would be to elect such a ‘People’s Authority’ and to set up commissions for the constitution, elections, transitional justice, etc. Such a Constituent Assembly would unite Sudan politically.

Furthermore, the independent electoral commission the Constituent Assembly sets up should request funding and support from the UN, AU, US and EU for the conduct of free and fair elections. It would decisively put to the test their resolve to support democracy in Sudan beyond diplomatic manoeuvres. 

The ball would then be in the court of the military power elite. If it moves to block the convening of such a democratic Constituent Assembly, it would further lose its moral legitimacy for suppressing a democratic process and open up the possibility of an indefinite general strike from trade unions and resistance forces.

The popular resistance forces will be strengthened by this legitimate democratic move to break the stalemate.  It is time for the popular resistance to act without delay.

First published in Labour Hub on June 18 2022 https://labourhub.org.uk/2022/06/18/why-the-popular-resistance-must-break-the-political-stalemate-in-sudan/

Breaking the silence on Israeli Apartheid

Human Rights Watch is calling for actions against Israel for committing crimes of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians.

Aftermath of an Israeli air strike in Rafah, 2009. Source: Exodus 1. Author: RafahKid Kid from Rafah, Palestine, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

For Human Rights Watch to call out the Israeli apartheid system in its recent report is certainly a landmark. The 213-page report, titled A Threshold Crossed, condemns Israel for “committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians” in the Occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) and in Israel itself.  It reinforces the recent finding of the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, which also broke the taboo by calling the singular organising principle of “Jewish supremacy” in Israel nothing less than “apartheid”. This consensus within human rights organisations has been long overdue since Palestinian, legal scholars, UN diplomats and activists have applied the concept of apartheid to Israel since at least the 1970s.

The report is strictly limited to assessing Israeli policies and practices towards Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and Israel and comparing them to the treatment of Jewish Israelis living in the same territories against the three primary conditions under the 1973 Apartheid Convention (ICSPCA) and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). These are: an intent to maintain a system of domination, systematic oppression by one racial group over another and one or more inhumane acts, such as forcible transfer, expropriation of landed property, creation of separate reserves and ghettos, and denial of the right to leave and to return to their country and the right to a nationality.  As grave as apartheid is the crime of persecution, also set out in the Rome Statute, as the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights on racial, ethnic, and other grounds.

The intent of the Israeli government to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians is beyond reasonable doubt. In 2018, the Knesset passed a law with constitutional status affirming Israel as the “nation-state of the Jewish people,” and establishing “Jewish settlement” as a national value.

To justify limiting and minimising the Palestinian population, Israeli authorities project Palestinians as an existential demographic “threat”.  At least 270,000 Palestinians who were outside the West Bank and Gaza when the occupation began in 1967 have been refused registration. The residency rights of nearly 250,000, mostly for being abroad for too long between 1967 and 1994, were revoked. Palestinians who had lived in the West Bank but left temporarily (to study, work, marry, etc.) are denied entry into the West Bank, including their non-registered spouses and other family members.

When Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, Palestinians who lived there were designated as “permanent residents,” a status normally given to non-Jewish foreigners.  Since 1967, At least 14,701 Palestinians have had this status revoked mostly for failing to prove a “centre of life” in the city. In Jerusalem municipality, government policy has set a target demographic “ratio of 60% Jews and 40% Arabs”. Today there are roughly 200,000 Israelis in East Jerusalem.

Since 2000, the Israeli government has largely refused to process family reunification applications. Requests by Palestinians for address changes in the West Bank and Gaza have been turned down. This freeze effectively bars Palestinians from acquiring legal status for spouses or relatives not already registered, and thousands of Gaza residents who came on temporary permits to West Bank are deemed illegal.

Within the West Bank, Palestinian ID holders are prohibited from entering areas such as East Jerusalem, lands beyond the separation barrier, and areas controlled by settlements and the army, unless they secure difficult-to-obtain permits. Nearly 600 permanent barriers including the separation wall have been erected, many between Palestinian communities. Land grabs for settlements and the infrastructure that primarily serves settlers effectively concentrate Palestinians in the West Bank, according to B’Tselem, into “165 non-contiguous ‘territorial islands.’” This planned fragmentation disrupts the daily life and economy of Palestinians.

Thousands of Palestinian homes across the West Bank including East Jerusalem have been demolished over the years because they are deemed not to have building permits which they cannot obtain. No compensation or resettlement is offered to displaced families. The purpose of this is to coerce Palestinians to abandon their homes and livelihoods and relocate into towns under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA).  In East Jerusalem, it is to force Palestinians out of the city.

Nearly two million Palestinians in Gaza have been effectively sealed off from the outside world by land, sea and air. Entry and exit of people and goods are severely restricted through one crossing each from Israel and Egypt. This has destroyed the economy and reduced access to basic services with 80 percent of people relying on humanitarian aid.

Water is critically scarce and an estimated 96 percent of the water supply has become “unfit for human consumption”. Electricity supply to homes is erratic and available for between 12 and 20 hours per day. On top of this, since 2008 Israeli defence forces have launched three major military offensives with air bombardment leading to death and destruction of homes and infrastructure. In 2018 and 2019, Israeli forces killed 214 demonstrators and maimed thousands when they approached the fences separating Gaza and Israel.

Generations of Palestinians in the OPT have been deprived of their basic civil rights, including the rights to free assembly, association and expression. Palestinians who have opposed occupations and are politically active are targeted. Hundreds of political and non-government organizations including media outlets have been banned.

More than 2 million dunams (1 dunam =1000 square meters) of land making up more than one-third of the West Bank has been confiscated from Palestinians. Israeli authorities have also made it impossible for Palestinians in Area C, the roughly 60 percent of the West Bank that the Oslo Accords placed under full Israeli control, as well as those in East Jerusalem, to obtain building permits. Meanwhile, 130 government-approved settlements and 100 unofficial ones are now homes of around 400,000 Israelis.

In Israel, at least 4.5 million dunams of land belonging to Palestinians have been confiscated and converted to state lands since the forced expulsion of nearly 700,000 Palestinians in 1948. These were turned into 900 Jewish small towns exclusively for Jewish residents which are allowed space for expansion. The vast majority of Palestinians – nearly 1.9 million – are hemmed into a handful of townships constituting 3 percent of the land. These are overcrowded, poorly serviced enclaves with little access to land and housing for growth. 

In the Negev, 35 Palestinian Bedouin communities have been denied legal recognition, making it impossible for their 90,000 or so residents to live lawfully.  These communities do not appear on official maps. Authorities have refused to connect most to the national electricity or water grids or to provide even basic infrastructure such as paved roads or sewage systems. They are denied access to their farms. Most have no educational facilities, and residents live under constant threat of having their homes demolished. Israeli authorities demolished more than 10,000 Bedouin homes in the Negev between 2013 and 2019.

For all intents and purposes, Palestinians in Israel are second class citizens with a two-track citizenship structure. Jews obtain automatic citizenship no matter where they are from under the Law of Return.  By contrast, Palestinians have to prove residency before 1948, inclusion in the population registry from 1952 and a continued presence in Israel or legal entry in, between 1940 and 1952.

The Israeli state has been relentless in maximizing the number of Jews, as well as the land available to them, in Israel and the coveted portions of the OPT for Jewish settlements. There is a determined incremental “Judaization” of areas with significant Palestinian populations by increasing Jewish settlers. There are no restrictions on the freedom of movement, or on the residence, work, farming, business, etc., for Jews anywhere.

The cover of the “peace process” launched after the Oslo accords has been used by Israeli government public relations to create the aura that occupation is temporary and Israel is an egalitarian democracy aiming to give Palestinians meaningful control over their lives. The reality on the grounds has been continual annexation of land for Jewish settlements. It has also led to the normalisation of Israel’s relations with many countries by giving it international legitimacy.

The key question is not whether there is apartheid in Israel but what is to be done about it. The first obstacle is that Western democracies including Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the United States have neither signed nor ratified the Apartheid Convention. Hence these governments are going to ignore the report, and the mainstream media as a whole will not take up this issue.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor opened a formal investigation into alleged war crimes in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip since June 2014 following a request from the Palestinians. Human Rights Watch urges the chief prosecutor to investigate and prosecute those credibly implicated in the crimes of apartheid and persecution. Israel has said that it would refuse to co-operate with the ICC.

The initiative has to come from civil society against the backdrop of the obstacles that have been placed on any criticism of Israel by calling it “anti-semitic”. The BDS movement initiated by Palestinian civil society against Israeli apartheid must be supported fully. Palestinians have a decades-long tradition of popular non-violent resistance against repression. International solidarity for this resistance through building links and practical action is vital.

First published on the Labour Hub on 11 May 2021 https://labourhub.org.uk/2021/05/11/breaking-the-silence-on-israeli-apartheid/