8 Nov 2021

"There's no going back now": NZ diaspora on moving toward democracy in Sudan

From Voices, 5:00 am on 8 November 2021

On 25 October this year, the Sudanese army dissolved the country's transitional civilian government and arrested key leaders.

The coup sparked protests across several cities with hundreds of thousands of people demanding a return of civilian rule. 

Thousands of protesters demonstrate against the coup in Omdurman city, on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

Power and internet outages have pretty much affected most of the capital, and a crippling cash shortage are all factors creating an altogether desperate time for locals.

Videos from Khartoum show tyres burning, barricades streets, massive crowds of people chanting and the army’s rapid response forces deployed everywhere.

In New Zealand, the small Sudanese diaspora has felt helpless when it comes to raising their voice against the coup and the violations that have ensued, with lockdown in Auckland making this time even harder for them.

Reem Abbas came to Auckland in 2013 as a skilled migrant along with her husband and daughters. She's a research fellow at AUT. 

For the past two weeks, Dr Abbas has been trying to remain in touch with the events through the day as they've unfolded in Sudan. 

"It's just hard to describe how we feel as 'diaspora'. To be honest we haven't had much sleep since 25 October. It's a mixture of hope, determination..."

Protesters in Khartoum on Saturday carry a banner showing ousted PM Abdullah Hamdok, and demanded and end to the coup.

Photo: AFP

After two and a half years of a steady move toward full civilian rule, the coup shattered the progress made since the 2019 revolution in Sudan that ended the 30-year-long dictatorship of Omar Al Bashir. 

Army general and coup leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said the army stepped in to avoid a civil war while promising to allow elections in 2023 to go ahead.

Abdalla Hamdok, the transitional prime minister of Sudan was detained by the army during the coup and remains under house arrest at present. 

"It's heartbreaking to see we are back here again after 2019."

The 2019 revolution in Sudan

The 2019 revolution in Sudan Photo: Kadambari Raghukumar

 "The will of the people is stronger than anything else and we're seeing it again," said Abdul Rahman Bashir, the acting Vice President of New Zealand's Sudanese Society.

Rahman and Reem were both a key part of organising a rally in 2019 at Auckland's Aotea Square at the height of the protest.

"It's frustrating that we can't do much now we need to follow lockdown rules."

With most allied nations making statements denouncing the coup,  RNZ Voices contacted the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Nanaia Mahuta, about the government's stance. In response a written statement issued by the minister's office said on 5 November:

"New Zealand is deeply concerned with the situation in Sudan. The military coup on 25 October threatens the political and civil rights of the Sudanese people and undermines Sudan's progress since 2019.

New Zealand condemns the military takeover and is joining the international community in calling for the immediate return of the civilian-led transitional government. The release of all detained civilians, and the full reinstatement of civilian government is pivotal to Sudan's progress, stability and future."

"We have come so far in our journey to democracy. There's no going back. To our people in Sudan we say, hold on, brighter days are coming soon" said Reem Abbas.