By Jaye Gaskia

Aisha Yesufa at #EndSARS Abuja Protest

THE uprisings of 2019 in Sudan, Algeria and Mali are important for the purposes of drawing valuable lessons in search of the way forward for the #EndSARS protest movement in particular, but also towards harnessing the gains of the movement to consolidate the movement of resistance in this new period and wave of popular resistance launched by the #EndSARS Protests.

In Sudan, as well as in Algeria and Mali, the protests were mass, they spread rapidly across the countries, with the demands of the movements changing and being consolidated as the movements grew and the various situations were changing.

What is important to note is that all of these movements were resilient, were deepened and driven by organisations with recognised, elected, accountable, and recallable leaderships.

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In Sudan, the Sudanese Professional Associations (SPA), an alliance of 17 trade unions, played a leading and central role in building alliances with civil society and citizens’ organisations, in initiating and coordinating the struggle.

The Sudanese uprising lasted over 8 months beginning in December 2018 with mass protests against rising cost of living and the price of bread and staple food. It soon led to the demand for the regime to go, which culminated in the military coup of April 2019. The military established the Transitional Military Council (TMC). But the movement continued rejecting the coup and demanding for a civilian transition government. The TMC initially attempted to suppress the movement, leading to the Khartoum massacre of June 3rd, 2019.

As we reflect and re-strategise during this temporary period of ebb in the flow of the resistance, the most compelling lesson though by past and recent, even unfolding history, is that hardships and repressions abundant in our society is systemic in nature and are inherent to capitalism and the capitalist system.

In July through August, the SPA and other protest groups established the coalition of resistance groups called the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), which also adopted a Freedom and Change Charter. All through this period the FFC continued to stage mass daily protests across the country with the SPA organising a three-day national general strike from June 9th to 11th 2019 after the massacre.

After intense negotiations between the FFC and the TMC, against the backdrop of continuing active mass strikes, the TMC agreed to a 39-month transitional period, and in September 2019 transferred power to a mixed Sovereignty Council of Sudan (SCS), consisting of equal numbers of civilian and military members, with a Civilian Prime Minister. The leadership of the SCS will also rotate between a military head at the beginning of the transition, replaced by a civilian head midway through the transition.

In Algeria, the individual trades and industrial unions also played a significant role in the Algerian Uprising which began on 16th February 2019. One similarity with the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria is the role of a coalition of women groups called the Feminist Collective, which coordinated the participation of women in the protests, and which established a Feminist Square in Algiers as a safe space for women protesters in the course of the protests.

The Feminist Collective was established on 16th March 2019, a month after the protests began, and a coalition of civil society organisations participating in the protests was also established on June 15th, 2019.

The movement ensured that the long serving president was dropped from seeking re-election, and it has led to the drafting of a new constitution only just approved in a referendum.

Now, it is debatable to what extent the Feminist Coalition, one of the most active groups in the #EndSARS movement, drew inspiration from the Algerian Feminist Collective, nevertheless, whereas the Feminist Collective was a coalition of several women groups, the Nigerian Feminist Coalition is rather made up of individual young feminist activists.

In Sudan as well as in Algeria, Resistance Committees were established to coordinate the resistance movement at local grassroots levels.

This resembles the Neighbourhood Defence Committees which were established at the height of the 1989 anti-SAP protests in Nigeria.

The anti-SAP protests were massive and spread like wild fire across the country, and it shook the military regime of IBB to its very foundations. But even though led by the youth of that period, it was organised and had recognisable leadership.

This generation, has, like previous generations before it, risen from out of relative obscurity, discovered its mission; and has chosen to fulfil, rather than betray that mission – a better, more socially just, more socially inclusive, more caring, more democratic, Nigeria, and world.

And just as we can date the inception of the reawakening of this generation of the young of the fourth republic to the January Uprising of 2012 (Occupy Nigeria of 2020), and which culminated in the #EndSARS protests of October 2020; we can also date the awakening of the youth of the post-Second Republic military dictatorship from the widespread student rebellion of 1986 engendered by the massacre of students at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), and culminating first in the anti-SAP Protests of 1989 and subsequently the June 12 struggle.

The anti-SAP protests directly engendered the establishment of Campaign For Democracy (CD), a coalition of citizens group to fight military dictatorship, as well as the other phase of the transition to democracy program of the IBB regime, which culminated in the aborted 3rd Republic and the annulment of the results of the June 12 presidential election which was already won and lost.

What are the lessons to be learnt in order for us to consolidate on the trajectory at the crest of this new wave of mass resistance to hardships and repression?

The most significant lesson to be learnt is the utmost and central necessity for central, structured organisation and organising, with recognisable, elected, accountable, and recallable leadership that is dynamic and democratic.

Following on this necessity for democratic and centralised organisation and leadership, is the necessity for coordination, without which the energy of the movement will be dissipated, and the capacity for development of consciousness cannot be properly harnessed.

Third, is the utmost necessity to build solidarity, and proactively and actively engage with all organised social forces of the labouring masses and exploited and oppressed working classes.

Central to the building of solidarity, and the outcome of the resistance movement, is the role of the workers and their organisations. The class that can impact the most on the capitalist economy is the working class. It is also the class capable of leading the radical transformation of society and the building of a new socially just and inclusive society, with democratised economic and political systems under the democratic control and management of organised workers and working peoples.

Thus, whether the goal is reform of the existing socio-economic and political system, or its radical supplanting and revolutionary transformation; the working class is central to the successful outcome of the process.

As we reflect and re-strategise during this temporary period of ebb in the flow of the resistance, the most compelling lesson though by past and recent, even unfolding history, is that hardships and repressions abundant in our society is systemic in nature and are inherent to capitalism and the capitalist system.

Also, that this capitalism is a global system, with the ruling classes collaborating globally and playing varying roles in the coordination of the exploitative and repressive mechanisms of the system.

As a result of this therefore, defeating the capitalist ruling classes and overthrowing capitalism and replacing it with a more democratic, socially just, and socially inclusive system – socialism – requires the building of solidarity and alliances nationally and internationally, central to which is the place and role of the working class and its organisations.

So, just as we must engage the working class to become consciously engaged with the mass resistance movement here at home, so we must engage with other resistance movements globally to build active global solidarity of the oppressed and exploited for radical social transformation and revolutionary remaking of society.

The #EndSARS protest, the first definitive revolt of the youth of the Fourth Republic, is also the second mass revolt of the Fourth Republic after the January Uprising of 2012. And moving forward depends on the lessons we learn and internalise from both.

The movement for mass resistance now requires to organise and establish and build a mass political movement, capable of not only challenging the power of the ruling class, but also capable of challenging for political power, winning political power, sustaining political power, and wielding political power to govern and lead and undertake the radical transformation of the state and of society towards building democratic socialism.

To conclude, as Frantz Fanon said, “Each generation must out of relative obscurity, discover its mission; Fulfil, or Betray it.”

This generation, has, like previous generations before it, risen from out of relative obscurity, discovered its mission; and has chosen to fulfil, rather than betray that mission – a better, more socially just, more socially inclusive, more caring, more democratic, Nigeria, and world.

Comrade Gaskia is a member of the leadership of Socialist Labour (SL) and Alliance for Surviving Covid-19 and Beyond (ASCAB) in Nigeria.

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