A Sudanese Revolution overthrew the sitting regime in 2019, and a transitional government is in place. This article explores Sudanese respondents’ take on how the former regime managed to stay in power for so long. The National Congress Party in Sudan held on to power for three decades against all odds after taking over in a coup in 1989. Widely unpopular, the regime relied on repression and coercive tactics to stay in power. Based on interview data from three locations in Sudan 2011 and 2012, respondents’ accounts of the NCP leadership strategies for staying in power are explored in this article. The interview data speaks to two highly intertwined processes. First, to the mobilisation of support from those the government needed in key positions around the country, in the elite, and the security forces. Second, the data speaks to the demobilisation of people in general. Respondents point at five strategies deployed by the NCP to stay in power: Creating a secure repressive base; divide and rule strategies; controlling the media; creating a confusing and closed system and, lastly, not pushing people too far. For each tactic, it seems the regime attempted to demobilise people at large, but also tried to mobilise those it needed. These five strategies are in this study seen in light of leadership, identities and collective action, and the analysis emphasises agency through the concepts of group efficacy and illiberal statebuilding. The study contributes to developing a psychology of demobilisation as it explores the attempted hindering of collective action. Exploring these issues in a non-Western conflict case like Sudan is a particularly important addition to understanding leadership demobilisation in conflict settings. Seeing this in light of the more recent processes of people’s power in Sudan makes it even more relevant.
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