Sudan’s 2019 revolution was a remarkable example of nonviolent action at work. Activists were organized and disciplined despite challenging circumstances, resulting in President Omar al-Bashir’s resignation. However, Sudan’s democratic transition has faltered in the years since Bashir’s downfall and is now threatened by the Sudanese military’s counterrevolutionary coup last fall. Though protesters quickly rallied in opposition to the military’s coup, they are increasingly divided over how to deal with the military. Notably, the Sudanese Professional Association — which has provided national-level revolutionary leadership — is now fractured over the issue. The result has been growing disillusionment with the transition process and resurgent societal divisions.

With Sudanese leaders trying to keep the revolution’s democratic visions alive, a recent USIP Special Report has revealed the 2019 revolution did not materialize overnight (a summary of this report is also available in English and Arabic). Instead, it was based on years of determined civil society development in difficult conditions. Cultivating these civic spaces helped activists to sustain three key features of their nonviolent campaign: widespread mass participation, opposition unity under competent leadership, and nonviolent discipline. And while some of these qualities have visibly diminished since Bashir’s departure, these findings show that Sudanese civic leaders are no strangers to organizing in uncertain and tricky environments, offering hope for a democratic Sudan. 

On June 23, USIP hosted a discussion with Sudanese activists and scholars on how Sudanese civic leaders can learn from their earlier strengths as they recover from the 2021 coup — as well as what the path forward might hold for the pro-democracy movement in Sudan and their global allies.

Continue the conversation on Twitter using #PeoplePower4Peace


Zahra Hayder
Sudanese Activist

Jawhara Kanu
Program Officer, U.S. Institute of Peace; Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding (SNAP) 

Marija Marovic 
Senior Advisor, Gisa Group

Muna Qurashi 
Program Manager, Sudan Commission for Social Security and Poverty Reduction

Matthew Cebul, moderator 
Research Officer, U.S. Institute of Peace

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From 2013 to 2018, Sudanese civil society actors carved out a variety of civic spaces that laid the foundation for Sudan’s 2018–2019 December Revolution. This report assesses the factors that gave rise to this remarkable mobilization—in particular how civil society development ultimately enabled the Sudanese opposition to sustain a decentralized, nationwide, and robust nonviolent campaign characterized by widespread mass participation, unity of leadership and purpose, and a commitment to nonviolent discipline—and what it will take to keep the country’s democratic transition on track.

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