Omar al-Bashir is the only leader they have ever known for most people in Sudan, his 30-year rule defined by brutal oppression and astounding political survival.
Under Bashir, an entire generation grew up in the shadow of war,
In the north, boys grew up in fear of being dragged from their homes to fight the civil war in the south.
Bashir taught everyone to live in fear. But he also taught them what they didn't want, and even under his decades-long oppression, they still, incredibly, visualized a democratic society.
On Thursday, they came to a step closer to achieving it, helping to topple the 75-year-old dictator who managed to cling to power despite being wanted by the International Criminal Court in connection with atrocities in Darfur.
After taking control in a coup in 1989 and becoming president in 1993, Bashir has proven himself the consummate political survivor. He conducted a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Darfur, yet simultaneously made himself indispensable to Gulf states and the West through military campaigns and cooperation on counter-terrorism.
Bashir has been ousted, but the protesters aren't quitting their sit-in any time soon. There's a real concern that this uprising will stop here, that the same power structure of rule will continue.
In the past, we've seen how Bashir managed to make himself so geographically important -- and difficult to dispose of -- from committing Sudanese forces to fight in Yemen to the recent negotiations with the US over the last four months of these demonstrations.
But part of his undoing was centralizing his rule.
The tools Bashir used in the past -- of casting off those he said were really to blame for corruption or atrocities -- were now in his inner circle and increasingly difficult to shed. Ultimately, the youth within his own country acted when the rest of the world did not.