Exile activist about overthrow in Sudan: “The development is dramatic”

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Exile activist is about overthrow in Sudan

The military is simply trying to take power in Sudan, says activist Adam Baher of Darfur. But the country needs democracy.

People with Sudanese flags and placards are demonstrating in Khartoum

Khartoum, April 13: The demonstrations continue Photo: Reuters

taz: Mr. Baher, Sudan's long-time ruler Bashir has resigned, the military has taken power. In 2008, you yourself were active in a political group planning Bashir's fall. What do you say about the current events?

Adam Baher: The development in Sudan is dramatic. The military is simply trying to seize power. But there are many young people on the street who say we do not want that. Sudan does not need a military government, it needs democracy. Those who have resisted for four months do not want an army in power. For this must be fought on. Nevertheless, it is a big thing that Bashir resigned.

You yourself were active early as oppsitioneller. What was your motivation?

I'm from Darfur. The government just launched a war against the people of Darfur in 2003. More than 300,000 people died, including my uncle. At that time I was at university studying economics. We students were clear: we have to do something, we are in Khartoum, the capital. We got together, I was active in the political section of the Justice and Equality Movement, not in the armed section. Some have tried to infiltrate the army and overthrow the regime from within. But there was a defeat. As a result, the government arrested many people and jailed them for years. That's why I left Sudan in 2008.

And today? What are the problems in Sudan?

First, the Bashir government is a government of the Muslim Brotherhood. We do not want that. In Sudan especially women have many problems with it. For example, since 2002, there has been a law called “public order,” which states that women should not wear pants, and more. The government is a dictatorship: between 2002 and today, four elections were held in Sudan. But the government always wins with 99.9 percent.

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When the protests started in December, it was still about the expensive bread.

Adam Baher, 36, was born in the town of El-Geneina in Sudan's western Darfur region. He studied economics and banking in Kharthum and was active in the student movement and political wing of the Darfur rebel movement Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which is why he had to leave the country. Since 2008 he lives in Germany, where he has received political asylum. Baher works as a trainer in political education.

Of course, the economic situation is part of the criticism. The bread suddenly cost three times as much as before. The people had nothing to eat and went out into the street. But the demands are no longer about bread. People need more freedom, more democracy, more human rights. The government has played the racism card and said that people from Darfur wanted to split the country. But that did not work. People went to the streets and sang, addressed to Bashir: “You are a racist, and we are all from Darfur.” This development is not self-evident. Since 2003 and until today people have always been killed in Sudan, but nobody has taken that to the streets. The fact that people are taking the wrong now is a huge development.

Can one say that the protest movement is secular oriented?

I think that no oppositional movement can now come to religion in Sudan. People have seen for 30 years what the Muslim Brotherhood has done with Sudan. Nobody wants that – that's why people are on the street. Of course there are Muslims in various opposition groups, because the majority of people in Sudan are Muslims. So Islam plays a role. But there are many young people on the street, and they always say: we do not need a religious government. They demand a clear separation between religion and politics. Various topics are now the subject in Sudan, feminism but also LGTBI issues, this is new in Sudan. That would not have happened without this protest.

Women play a very strong role in the protests.

For political reasons I do not want to speak for women, because I am a man and can not learn their fight. But I can confirm that women play a big role in this protest. You can see that in the videos: women are always in the front row. They are better organized because they have long been united to resist the government, especially since the public order law restricted their rights in 2002. And in many cases, they managed to soften that law. They therefore have their own autonomous structure. In Europe there is this idea that women are oppressed everywhere in Muslim or Arab countries. But that does not correspond to reality.

Now a military council is ruling, but the protest continues. Will this protest be crushed or is there hope, or is there even a civil war looming?

I'm always scared. But people in Sudan do not want violence, it's only governmental. For four months, the protest has been peaceful throughout Sudan. There was enough violence: the war between North and South, the war in Darfur, the war against the Nubians. People no longer want violence, there are only peaceful protests. But the government is always trying to put it in a violent direction, they have power and they can kill people. But people have also learned from the development of Syria: they do not want to go in that direction. During the current protests, more than sixty people were killed, but the protests remained peaceful. That's crazy! But the fear of further development is there. It could turn when people can not keep up and move on to violence. I hope it does not come that far.

How do people react to the repression and violence?

Of course I can not say everything. But for example, from the beginning, filming with the mobile phone was already prohibited. So people hid in buildings and filmed from above the protest on the street. They then sent the material directly to people outside Sudan who were then able to upload it. Then there are the tear gas grenades: there are people walking around with water cans; If the police shoot tear gas, put the grenade in the water can so they can not explode. Some women use their headscarves to catch the tear gas grenade and throw it back at the police. Many people are currently in jail, 3,000 people certainly. But that does not stop the protest, there are always new people coming in and the organizational structure is flexible and unknown to the government.

What role do Germany and the EU play?

Some Germans may not want to hear that. But above all, the EU has given the Sudanese government a lot of money so that the police can better protect their borders. For this, the Sudanese police were trained by Germany. They call this “migration management” and “combating the causes of flight”. This police is killing people on the street today. And if there is another problem in Sudan like in Syria, that will be a problem for the whole world. People will come to Europe, not because they want, but because there is no other way. You can not talk about causes of flight without doing anything now. It makes me sad to be in Germany, and there is no solidarity. I also go to their demos for rent, climate protection and so on. But nobody cares about Sudan.

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