‘Make fun of your government, that’s how you destroy fear.’ I sat in on a session on politics and tools for creatives organised by PAWA 254 Center here in Nairobi. The man who said this, was Ahmad. He is an activist and artist in (Northern) Sudan and part of a movement called Girifna – meaning ‘We’re fed up!’. They have one objective: Overthrow the Sudanese government led by Al Bashir by non-violent means. In a militarised state this is incredibly hard. Besides the constant risk of arrest, no opportunity to protest legally and to assemble people, people don’t want to be involved in politics.
But they still try. The core group works through secret/closed groups on online social platforms like facebook and they use one of the biggest weapons any person has: a sense of humor. They organise their protest around issues that sound non-political. An example he told about was recently the Elbow-licking-day! A government official had said that it would be easier for everyone to lick their elbows before protesters would be able to overthrow the government. They used this statement to mobilise people to come out under this theme.
Next to this, they have to do the hard work on the streets. Speaking on the streets, he showed a short film where the speaker first recites a poem, and then relates the poem to existing political issues to inform and mobilise the public. Unfortunately the man is not able to finish his speech, he is arrested. Achmad stressed that you need to be prepared for this and that this is a big risk for them. When you get arrested the police force you to open your email and facebook account. They have lost computers and for example printers and copy machines due to this.
There is also the risk of infiltration, but the only thing you can do about this, is try not to get paranoid. You need to be able to trust a number of people, as long as the essential work is protected. For women the risk to participate might be too big. They experienced a case where one of their female speakers got raped by three men.
There are more movements springing up like Girifna and they have decided together to form the Sudanese Revolutionary Front. This was realised only three days ago in Kampala, Uganda where both movements and rebel groups have signed a charter to form a shadow government to prepare for when they overthrow the government. Because the conviction of people like Ahmad makes you realise, it is not a matter of if, but when. Their determination has been sparked by the many revolutions around them, let’s hope they will succeed sooner than later.
And in the meantime, look at this funny video, washing away a dictatorship, it’s like a stain, you need to scrub, and scrub and scrub, but it will come out!