What Sudan’s protesters have that the military does not

The 2019 democratic revolution was based on a new embrace of individual dignity. A coup against that will be difficult.

Pro-democracy protesters flash the victory sign as they take to the streets against a takeover by they military officials in Khartoum, Sudan, Oct. 25.

During his two years as Sudan’s civilian leader, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok often justified reforms as “preserving” the dignity of the people. The inherent worth of women, for example, gave them rights and freedoms over their types of clothing in a largely Muslim country.

On Oct. 25, the British-trained economist expressed a similar dignity after the military took full power and put him under house arrest. The generals asked him to issue a statement in support of the coup. He refused.

Mr. Hamdok’s act of integrity might now help bolster the protesters who have taken to the streets to save their democratic revolution of 2019. They are again in a battle with autocratic generals who believe dignity is something granted from outside rather than an innate quality of each individual.

One of Sudan’s main pro-democratic groups, the Sudanese Professionals Association, has long advised protesters to “protect the ... remaining dignity” of each person by acting with peaceful courage. The demonstrations will again be challenged by coup leaders who rely on guns to rule.

The 2019 revolution was successful in part because of the integrity of protesters. Their mental freedom and embrace of equality in Sudan’s diverse society helped lead to the downfall of dictator Omar al-Bashir and the creation of a temporary sharing of power between the military and civilians. As the deadline neared in November for the military to hand over power, the generals panicked and led a coup.

Yet their attempt to roll back Sudan’s progress will be difficult. “Justice and accountability are a solid foundation of the new, rule of law-based Sudan we’re striving to build,” said Mr. Hamdok soon after taking office two years ago.

That “striving” has lost some ground with the coup. But Sudan’s 45 million people, now far more aware of acting out of dignity rather than pleading for it, may refuse to go along with the military, much like Mr. Hamdok did.

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