Civil Society Groups Rise To Safeguard Sudan’s Shaky Transition To Democracy

  • The protests started as an instinctive response to rising commodity prices. But through coordinated civic engagement, they’ve become so much more.

When in Dec. 2018, the people of Sudan thronged the streets to protest a failing economy, they met a resistance that reminded them they were also victims of an autocracy that had succeeded for far too long. So, they cranked up their demands, concerning themselves not only with the unattainable prices of bread and fuel, but also with all that was wrong with the government of the day — all that had been wrong for the past three decades.

Four months later, when long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was finally ousted from power, cries of victory rang through the streets. But the celebrations were short-lived. The people understood that al-Bashir himself wasn’t the problem, but the form of government he led. They could not tolerate a transitional military government and so the protests continued.

The North African country stands on the cusp of change. It is at a juncture where it can either slip back into the tribulations of the past or advance into a bright democratic future. And while there have been many events since al-Bashir’s toppling that compel pessimism, there’s also been a lot of reasons to be hopeful. One is the rise of civil society groups like Alassam’s.

Mohamed Nagi Alassam, 32, spent many years studying to become a physician, but today he only practices “from time to time”. What could be more important than treating the sick and saving lives? Perhaps, rescuing a nation of 46 million people from the grip of despots.

In Aug. 2021, Alassam co-founded Beam Reports with two friends. Events surrounding the revolution made it clear to him that the media scene in Sudan needed something different. He explains that the shortcomings in the sector were a result of deliberate policies by the al-Bashir regime targeted at the media and civil society. A lot of the newsrooms are controlled or partly owned by the military powers or people who benefit from and support the ruling class.

“I always had a critical view of the Sudanese traditional media and I think throughout our history, we had a very opinionated media. So opinion articles have always been very popular and most people buy newspapers just to read these articles,” he says.


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