SHAFAQNA | By Leila Yazdani : After 30 years in power, Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, who has ruled Sudan with an iron fist is finally out. It was Sudan’s anger that ousted him. After the historic removal of Bashir, and his replacement with a military strongman, There’s no easy answer to this question: In Sudan, a Transition to Democracy or a Military Power Play?
The world condemned his brutal regime, but it was the Sudanese people who finally forced the president from power.
People celebrated in the streets following the news that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been arrested and forced from power in a military coup, according to cnn.
Sources told Reuters that the Bashir was at the presidential residence under “heavy guard” while a son of Sadiq al-Mahdi, the head of the country’s main opposition Umma Party, told al-Hadath TV that the former president was under house arrest with “a number of leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood group.”
The Sudanese army will not extradite deposed President Omar al-Bashir but will put him on trial at home, before the nation, the military said Friday as it defended its ouster of the longtime ruler, saying it was in response to the demands of the people, looptt told. “This was not a coup,” Col. Gen. Omar Zein Abedeen told reporters in the capital, Khartoum, but a “tool of change.”
Defense Minister Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf was sworn in late Thursday as head of a military council, which plans to lead Africa’s third-largest country for two years and has declared a three-month state of emergency.
The council wants to begin dialogue with political parties and supports “the demands of the people,” representative Omar Zain Abdin said Friday in a televised address. “We want to stabilize the country and give equal opportunities to all.” He said there’s a chance the transitional period could be reduced after negotiations, Bloomberg reported.
Speaking at a press conference in Khartoum that was broadcast on state TV and flanked by other officers also in uniform, he left open the possibility that a future civilian government in Sudan could extradite al-Bashir to the court in The Hague, Netherlands.
General Awad Ibn Auf had initially taken over as the head of the military council, but he resigned just a day later amid a public outcry, with protesters saying he was too close to the deposed leader, Al Jazeera mentioned.
Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who replaced the coup leader after he resigned on Friday, also dissolved all provincial governments and pledged respect for human rights, according to BBC.
Saturday’s meeting in the capital, Khartoum, came as the new head of the council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, promised to hand over power to a civilian government within two years following consultations with opposition groups.
Al-Bashir came into power after leading a bloodless coup
A former military commander, al-Bashir came into power after leading a bloodless coup in 1989. The International Criminal Court charged the 75-year-old in 2009 and 2010 with crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide in Darfur, where between 200,000 and 300,000 people were killed and at least 2.7 million others were displaced. Despite the international travel ban stemming from his arrest warrant, al-Bashir has made diplomatic trips to South Africa, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
In the Darfur conflict, rebels among the territory’s ethnic Central African community launched an insurgency in 2003, complaining of discrimination and oppression by the Arab-dominated Khartoum government. The government responded with a scorched earth assault of aerial bombings and unleashed the Janjaweed. Up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million driven from their homes, The Star mentioned.
Overthrew Bashir after almost four months of protests
The demonstrations started in late December by university students who were angry with the government for tripling the cost of bread. When the ATMs ran out of cash shortly after, the Sudanese Professionals Association, a national union group, redirected the protests to call for the end of al-Bashir’s reign. The movement has since spread to nearly every state in Sudan, making it the biggest ever resistance effort against the government since al-Bashir became president, buzzfeednews mentioned.
“In the past, democratic experiments were led by [Sudan’s] traditional political parties,” said Khalid Medani, a professor on African politics and Islam at McGill University. “This new mobilization is led by lawyers, doctors, and engineers and, of course, women’s organizations”, foreignpolicy reported.
As the number of protesters multiplied, state-led security forces cracked down on the civilians, firing tear gas during rallies, beating demonstrators in the streets, arresting them indiscriminately, and sometimes killing them. The government also issued a social media shutdown, forcing millions of people to use VPNs, which are often unreliable, in order to remain online.
The largest nation in Africa
Sudan, by size, is the largest nation in Africa and the tenth largest nation in the world. It shares borders with nine different nations; only China, Russia and Brazil have more neighbors than Sudan. Since achieving independence in 1956, the nation has experienced only ten years of peace. Since 1983, an estimated two million Sudanese have died of war-related causes, while five million have been forced from their homes. Since 1993, Sudan has been the world’s leading debtor to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Sudan’s population of about 38 million is deeply divided ethnically and religiously. Although 52% of the population is black, the nation has always been ruled by the minority who are Arabs. Seventy percent of Sudanese are Sunni Muslims, 25% follow traditional religions and 5% are Christians, mostly Catholic, allgov mentioned. A census taken at the time of independence identified 50 ethnic groups, 570 distinct peoples and the use of 114 languages, although more than half the population speaks Arabic.
In Sudan, a Transition to Democracy or a Military Power Play?
After the historic removal of Bashir, and his replacement with a military strongman, Sudanese activists were quick to express their discontent, calling the situation a “recycled coup,” Justin Lynch and FP’s Robbie Gramer, Colum Lynch, and Jefcoate O’Donnell report. Protesters have vowed to press on until they gain civilian rule.
Protesters have been nearly unanimous in saying that they want to see a real change to the political system and an end to military government. Protesters are demanding civilian control and a say for citizens in shaping governmental decisions that affect people’s day-to-day lives.
In its announcement installing the Military Council as the transitional authority, the military leadership declared a three month curfew from 10 pm – 4 am. Seeing the Military Council as simply replacing one autocratic leader with another, the protesters have defied the curfew and remain camped outside the Defense Ministry headquarters. The military will have to decide whether to remove the protesters by force or seek some form of compromise, Africa Center told.
The military leaders will also need to consider the fate of the military as an institution moving forward. If the military aligns itself with the reformist movement, the military will gain credibility and will be better positioned to strengthen the legitimacy and professionalism of the institution during the transition. This avenue remains open for now, given the military’s restraint. That option, however, would be lost if the military moves against civilians.
Transforming the protests into genuine democratic change in Sudan will require maintaining an organized reform coalition and reaching an understanding with military leaders.
A lesson from other democratic transitions, as well as previous brief civilian transitions in Sudan in 1964 and 1985, is that achieving a successful outcome requires sustaining the reforms over time. Building a democracy is far more involved than removing an autocratic leader, as significant as that is. Rather, genuine change will require institutional reforms – creating checks on the presidency, a representative legislature, a free press, an independent judicial system, a merit-based civil service, a professional and depoliticized security sector, an apolitical central bank, oversight mechanisms to curb corruption, and a process for ensuring free and fair elections, among others.
Will External Actors Play a Role?
Given its strategic location and ties to both Africa and the Arab World, many external actors may have an interest in trying to tilt the outcome of the Sudan transition. Complicating these considerations is that Bashir has overseen regularly shifting relationships with key neighbors, including Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Turkey among others. The most immediate concern is that an external actor interested in maintaining the status quo or enhancing its strategic posture may intervene to try and prop up the Military Council and perhaps provide it the rationale to use force against the protesters.
China’s interests in Sudan have recently been upgraded given its position on China’s 21st century Maritime Silk Road. Russia has been showing increased interest in Sudan in recent years as part of its new push into Africa. Consequently, these actors may see value in stymieing a democratic transition.
Sudanese want change, but Sudan’s problems are structural, not a matter of personality.
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