Sudanese Path to Democracy, People’s Power Ousting African Dictators
As the Sudanese People filled the streets the defense Minister Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, surrounded by Sudanese flags, announced on state television that Bashir’s 30-year rule was over. The 75-year-old dictator, who has been under indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide for over a decade since 2009, was placed on house arrest. His supporters were unable to flee the country due to a 24-hour airspace shutdown.
But demonstrators promptly rejected the military takeover, with the Sudanese Professionals Association, one of the main protest organisers, calling for a civilian transitional government to be put in place. On the streets of Khartoum, elated Sudanese protesters ripped down posters bearing their former leader’s image. But it remained uncertain whether April 11 would mark the beginning of democracy in Sudan or the transition from one dictatorship to another—or a civil war.
The marches began in December, over the price of bread and living conditions. Protests quickly spread across the country and grew to numbers Sudan had never seen under Bashir’s rule. Although this could have happened a few decades ago, some of the old critics of Bashir have had it rough “More than 200 people were shot down in Khartoum in broad daylight. I was detained for eight days. My arrest was nothing compared to what others had to endure. It’s a big problem – the lashings, interrogations, intimidation, beatings, families not knowing where their loved ones have disappeared. My case was different because it had high visibility, I was a World Bank employee and there was a different dynamic,” Roubi herself was detained in 2013 during the “Sudan Change Movement,” which broke out after the 2011 Arab uprisings.
Despite limited media coverage of the uprising in Sudan and the Omar al-Bashir regime’s subsequent efforts at repression, the popularity of these uprisings is increasing day by day, spreading across many of the largest cities in the country. The dominating chant of “The people want to overthrow the regime”—echoing earlier chants of the Arab Spring—is of concern to both Khartoum and other governments across Africa. It is certain that were the al-Bashir regime to fall, its collapse would have major consequences for several countries in the region, the interests of which al-Bashir is the principal guarantor. Whether these regional concerns and al-Bashir’s own tenacity will win out over increasing public pressure remains to be seen, yet the Sudanese government’s future is far from clear.
Al though some corners of the uprising remain unknown, the Sudanese wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that partially supported Omar al-Bashir’s 1989 coup, it cannot be determined precisely whether the organization now supports or opposes the regime. Its positions have oscillated from participation in the government to opposing it. Similar to other political groups in Sudan, the Muslim Brotherhood suffers from internal rifts that began after its spokesperson Hassan al-Turabi reconciliation with then-President Nimeiri through “National Reconciliation” in 1977. Its membership has since divided into several blocs, each with divergent attitudes towards the current regime. That could prove dangerous to the incoming regime as they would create their own political realignments.
Africans visualize Western democracy as being “on trial” with respect to its ability to overthrow dictator in Sudan and in the United States, its willingness to allow Africans freely to determine their own social and economic goals and means for attaining them, and its capacity for making adequate technical and financial assistance available in competition with the Communist countries.
The West feels that African states are in danger of sacrificing liberty to the pursuit of equality and that the burden of proof is on them to demonstrate that the one-party states now prevalent cannot be “democratic,” that civil liberties will be restored where they have been abridged in the case of emergencies, and that “African socialism” will not slide over into doctrinaire communism. Africans are sometimes accused of “abandoning” democratic precepts and practices bequeathed to them under colonialism. No colonial power ever tried to govern democratically. The new nations are involved in “experiments in democracy” for the first time. Some of their special problems may demand special political measures. It is probable that, as literacy levels rise and political conditions become more stable and if, and when, sustained self-generating economic growth takes place, some of the democratic values never known to the African masses as well as some of those known to leaders but sacrificed to achieve national unity and rapid modernization will emerge.
Despite economic woes, Africa still presents opportunities, and despite challenges, democracy is marching forward in the continent. As per an ancient African proverb, the prettiest flowers bloom amidst the sharpest thorns, today more than ever before public opinion now matters. The media might be on a tight leash, but social media has come into its own. Political discussions occur on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Mobile banking enables new candidates to raise money to fund their election campaigns. Museveni still rules but his days on the throne might be numbered. It not a prophecy but this land that has seen the likes of Idi Amin is in every facet, leaps and bounds to the good now. Museveni is not executing his opponents summarily. Besigye addressed large rallies in both urban and rural areas. The latter have historically been Museveni’s stronghold, but large numbers turned up to hear Besigye. Sometimes back in 2016, Museveni and Besigye squared off in the first live television debate featuring a sitting Ugandan president. Prior to this, Museveni had dismissed, out of hand, the idea of a debate as an exercise for school children African Be Ready.