Sudan: Barricading the Revolution

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As the Sudanese Revolution is ongoing and is met with implacable violence by the military, Reem Abbas offers us a beautiful and powerful text about the barricade, not merely as a political architecture, but more importantly as the site where the Revolution takes place.

Article published in The Funambulist 24 (July-August 2019) Futurisms. Click here to access the rest of the issue.

Abbas Funambulist3
Barricades in Khartoum between April and June 2019. / Photo by Mohamed Musa.

Long after the protest ends, tear gas is fired and people are arrested, the legacy of the protest and the battle that ensues before its dispersing will continue to mark the streets. The tarmac will have massive black stains courtesy of tires that were set on fire and left to burn for hours. Burned trash will also line the sides of the street, but the most prominent feature will be the barricades.

Khartoum does not really have a central square where people can protest. Since the protests began in December 2018, the main scene for protests was neighborhoods. The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a coalition of trade unions that guided and organized the protests that overthrew 30-year-long president Omer Al-Bashir in April 2019 and continues to guide the protest movement to achieve civilian rule, would sometimes call for protests in Abu-Janzeer square or Al-Gandool roundabout in downtown Khartoum. Abu-Janzeer was a square at some point and was an important place for student protests decades ago, but it is now a confusing parking lot surrounded by a mall and gold shops.

One of the main characteristics of the Sudanese revolution is where it took place: it took place everywhere. Khartoum is linked to its twin sisters, the cities of Omdurman and Khartoum North, through bridges. Several bridges connect the cities to one another, but the water borders can also isolate especially when the bridges are closed by the authorities or traffic is controlled when a protest is announced in one of the three cities. Between December 2018 and April 2019, daily protests took place in the three cities. People would often protest in their neighborhoods marking their territory and mobilizing based on trust and social networks.

Protests have an ecosystem. It involves creating a makeshift clinic inside one of the houses, arranging safe-houses and vehicles for activists, documenting the protest after it starts to inspire other neighborhoods and also assigning roles to different individuals based on trust. Those roles can be broken down into assigning a tear gas man: a person who returns the tear gas back to the riot police, a chanter: a person who leads the protest with chants and slogans and security details: a number of individuals who monitor the movement of security agents and riot police and warn the protestors.