The People’s Protest: Sudan from the margins

Zachariah Mampilly in n + 1:

ScreenHunter_952 Jan. 21 19.02Sudan was the site of the first major anti-colonial revolt in African history, when the followers of Muhammad Ahmad, known as the Mahdi (or Redeemer), overthrew the Anglo-Egyptian regime in 1885. Yet the Mahdist revolt is not the only or even most consequential of Sudan’s historic uprisings. In 1964, countless Sudanese took to the streets to overthrow the military regime of Ibrahim Abboud. At the forefront of the revolt was the country’s emerging civil society—students, trade unions, and members of the vibrant Sudanese Communist Party. But the protest wave quickly swelled beyond civil society, drawing in ordinary people as it flowed towards the presidential palace. Most demonstrations were peaceful, but some engendered bouts of rioting. The regime opened fire, killing twenty-eight and scattering protesters. Its victory was short lived, however: the next day, facing pressure from junior military officers unhappy with the violent crackdown, Abboud dissolved the military government and stepped aside. The triumph of the protesters, now remembered as Sudan’s “October Revolution,” represented the first time in post-colonial African history that a popular movement overthrew a military regime, preceding the Arab Spring by nearly half a century.

But few other post-colonial nations have struggled as much to remain a viable national community. Just two years ago, the southern region was cleaved off, following a civil war that had stretched on for decades. As with an amputated limb, many Sudanese cannot shake the sensation of its phantom presence.

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