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Do Black lives matter in Sudan?

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On August 2, as General Shams al-Din al-Kabashi emerged from a house in Omdurman, protesters ambushed him with anti-military chants. Al-Kabashi, who is a member of the ruling sovereign council dominated by the military, had supposedly just had an hours-long meeting with supporters of deposed President Omar al-Bashir.

While the protesters' anger was understandable, given that the military leadership continues to resist dismantling al-Bashir's regime, some of them went beyond political chants and started shouting racial slurs at the general, who is darker-skinned and hails from the Nuba Mountains region, an area in the southern part of Sudan where most communities are of African descent.

This racist episode came just a few weeks after Sudanese social media users mounted a campaign of racist abuse against a famous footballer from west Sudan, Issam Abdulraheem, after he posted a photo of himself and his wife, Reem Khougli, a makeup artist who happens to be a light-skinned Arab.

Seeing this a bit more than a year after Sudan had its first Black Lives Matter moment is quite disheartening. As the Sudanese people battled al-Bashir's tyranny last year, many came to the realisation that defeating his regime would mean not only toppling him and wresting political power out of the hands of the military but also dismantling the vast system of racial and socioeconomic oppression that has dominated every aspect of Sudanese life since before his rule.

The Sudanese revolution embraced national unity and vowed to build a "new Sudan" on the foundations of socioeconomic and racial justice and equality. But these recent racist incidents show just how far away we are from achieving it.

Sudan is an ethnically diverse country. While the majority is made up of Muslim Arab-speaking tribes of various backgrounds, there are many non-Arabised ethnic groups, including, Nubians, Beja, Fur, Nuba (ethnically different from Nubians), Fallata and others. These communities have been historically marginalised, discriminated against and politically ostracised.

Part of the reason for this has to do with British colonialism, which favoured some tribes over others, but much of it also is related to Sudan's pre-colonial history. In the seventh century, the Christian Nubian state of Makuria concluded a treaty (known as al-Baqt) with Egypt's Arab conquers, which among other provisions included the transfer of 360 slaves per year to new Egyptian rulers. This established Sudan as a source of slaves for Egypt and the rest of the Arab world.

Over the following centuries, Arab tribes gradually........

© Al Jazeera

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