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Feature: Military junta 'even worse' for democracy-hungry Sudan

April 26 - 2019 AMSTERDAM
Sudanese demonstrators have been calling for the overthrow of Al Bashir and his regime since mid-December 2018 (AFP)
Sudanese demonstrators have been calling for the overthrow of Al Bashir and his regime since mid-December 2018 (AFP)

L1, L2, and sometimes even the green light on Line 3 flashes. Radio Dabanga, the only independent radio station in Sudan, has been receiving phone calls all day long.

Editor-in-chief Kamal El Sadig immediately answers: "Es salaamu aleikum," he says, quickly noting the number that appears on his office telephone. It is expensive to call from Sudan to the radio studio in Amsterdam. Some people ring and then immediately hang up. Then El Sadig calls them back.

He puts the phone on speaker. The caller sounds excited: "I cannot believe what happened in Sudan. How can the army come up with such a statement after waiting for ten hours? This is not what people have demonstrated for over the past four months. What is the latest news? Can you quickly update us?"

Radio Dabanga, supported by Free Press Unlimited, is an exiled radio station and has around three million Sudanese listeners. In Sudan, where there is no freedom of the press; only the government channel has a greater reach.

This station, which has been in existence for just over ten years, is the only place where desperate Sudanese can have their say. On Thursday, most people feel cheated by the Sudanese regime.

Televised address of Defence Minister Awad Mohamed Ibn Auf on 11 April 2019 (NRC)

They have demanded the departure of President Omar Al Bashir since December. That may have succeeded, but "many people complain that the man taking over is worse than Al Bashir," says El Sadig. "They call and say that their revolution was not about a new leader but about a different regime."

The live television broadcast shows an image of Defense Minister Awad Ibn Auf, a confidant of Al Bashir, declaring that the president has been ousted.

Because all media in Sudan are in the hands of the government, it is difficult for people to understand what exactly is happening, El Sadig says. He points to the office television, where Sudan TV is on, an important channel. "The statement from the defense minister has been repeating since two o'clock this afternoon." Sudanese people have seen nothing more than that statement for the past four hours.

El Sadig gathers the opinions of Sudanese who call him, or contact him via WhatsApp and email. He flies from his office telephone, to his e-mail inbox, back to his iPhone. Short films of people who camp next to the military complex, in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, appear in succession. He sees images of streets full of Sudanese people, especially young people, carrying signs saying that a new thief is in power in Sudan: "They are cheaters."

He takes the interesting testimonies he hears, compares them, and turns them into a news item to be broadcast later in the day from their office in Amsterdam's Weesperstraat.

On the white A4 paper where he takes notes, the words "We don't want him, we don't want him; he is worse than Al Bashir,” are written in Arabic. They came from another angry caller, he says.

Not all Sudanese people share that opinion. A caller says on Thursday afternoon that he is very happy that Al Bashir has now left without much bloodshed. Another says the minister's TV statement on Thursday afternoon was fake news. Al Bashir is still in power, he says. “Some people are of course happy that Al Bashir is finally gone,” says El Sadig, “but a large proportion of them are still dissatisfied and say that the man taking over his position is even worse.”

Editor-in-chief Kamal El Sadig sits at his desk in the Dabanga office, located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Irina Raiu)

Another editor of Radio Dabanga, Sudanese-Dutch El Sadig Mousa, is preparing a radio broadcast behind his computer. He is often busy interviewing doctors, teachers, and police officers.

“No one from the government wants to talk to us now,” says Mousa. So on Thursday he spoke to a leader of an opposition party and the chairman of a civil society organisation.

All people not affiliated with the government say similar things to Mousa on Thursday. They complain that their revolution has been hijacked by the military.

Many also have a similar plan: “They call on all Sudanese to go out on the street, stay there, and not go home. They want to put more pressure on the army now more than ever, and make it clear that they will not be satisfied until the entire Al Bashir regime is gone. Not just him.”

The Sudanese say they have yet to get their real revolution.

This article was written by journalist Maral Noshad Sharifi and published in It was translated from Dutch and republished by Radio Dabanga. You can read the original piece here.

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