Sudan at a Crossroads

Three months after his ouster, Omar al Bashir, the embattled former leader of Sudan, is currently awaiting trial in Khartoum on charges relating to corruption. But the move has done very little to mollify the civilians who were the instigators of the coup. So far, their demands for a civilian government have almost gone unheeded. Instead the military junta has responded with force, maiming and killing those who have come out to protest.

The African Union (AU) recently responded to the brutal crackdown by suspending Sudan from the pan-African union “until the establishment of a civilian led Transitional Authority.” At the moment, mediation efforts to solve the crisis are being undertaken by the AU and the Ethiopian Government. Ethiopia has already presented its proposal, which calls for a transitional government made up of 15 members, seven from the military and seven civilians, while the remaining seat is to be occupied by a neutral individual.

Although the opposition has accepted the proposal, the ruling military council in a statement issued by its spokesman, Lieutenant-General Shams al-Din, has outrightly rejected it. Instead it has stated that it would only accept African Union’s proposal, whose contents are yet to be made public. However, it is highly likely that the military is applying delaying tactics by frustrating mediation efforts in order to stay in power. Perhaps what they don’t realise is that the failure to address the underlying issues and the delay in the formation of a civilian government will only lead to serious violence.

According to the United States Institute of Peace, mismanagement of political transitions have always served as triggers of violence. This often leads to peace agreements which at times “plunge countries in further chaos than before.” In Yemen, for instance, there is an ongoing civil war, as a result of failed political transition following an uprising that ousted President Abdullah Saleh in 2011.

Just like Saleh, Mr Hadi Mansour who took over as the new leader became incompetent and failed to address issues such as corruption, unemployment and security problems that had given birth to the revolution. Houthis, a sectarian Islamic movement which had all along opposed the government took advantage of the situation and whipped the disgruntled civilians on its side, including those who had initially opposed its radicalism.

Their main demand was the reinstatement of fuel subsidies, and the formation of a representative government failure to which drastic steps were to be taken. Following hesitation on the government’s side the movement launched an offensive capturing the main city of Sanaa. With Yemen plunging further in a state of anarchy, President Mansour invited the Houthis to a dialogue, and the two sides sign an agreement brokered by the United Nation.

Among the components of the deals was for the Houthis to withdraw from the Sanaa and cease fire in exchange of their demands being met. But the group rejected the offer and instead launched another offensive that saw them capture the port city of Hodeida. For a time hostilities ceased after Khaled Bahah the country’s envoy to US was appointed Prime Minister, but the situation quickly deteriorated after the presentation of a draft constitution which sought to divide the country into six provinces. The Houthis responded by storming the presidential palace forcing President Hadi to flee to exile after being placed under house arrest. This resulted in a civil war which has so far left around 70, 000 people dead.

On the other hand Tunisia is a good example of how a well managed political transition can lead to strong governing institutions, and long lasting peace and stability. After President Ben Ali was forced to resign following a popular uprising, the military stepped in and vowed to protect the revolution. Surprisingly the military totally kept out of politics and entrusted civilians with managing the transition . Prime Minister Mohammed Gannouchi took over briefly as President before handing power to Fouad Mebazaa the speaker of parliament.

Despite the conflict that always characterise political transitions, the new interim government strived to create peace and to accelerate democratization process. This included formation of an all inclusive cabinet, setting up of a commission to reform the constitution, and lifting the ban on political parties. 10 months later free and fair elections were held for the first time , and Mohamed Beji Essebsi became the first democratically elected president of Tunisia.

Today Tunisian revolution is considered as the only Arab uprising that succeeded. Some of its biggest advances are political freedom, media freedom and personal freedom. In 2015, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced its decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to four Tunisian organisations for their decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.”

As Professor Tawfik Jelassi, a former minister in the interim government told a Swiss Radio, “Tunisians were able to undergo a transition without taking up guns but by sitting down at the negotiation table.” However, in Sudan the stubbornness of military leaders on the formation of an all inclusive transitional government has led to the collapse of negotiations. Their motive is to sabotage the political transition, build networks and exploit loopholes which would enable them to hold on to power or facilitate their return to power disguised as civilian leaders.

The same happened in Egypt after Hosni Mubarak resigned and hand over power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces following a popular uprising. After a series of elections Mohamed Morsi became the first democratically elected president of but his divisive politics quickly made him unpopular among many Egyptians.On 3 July 2013, he was deposed in a coup, led by Abdul Fatah al-Sisi a former director of military intelligence under Mubarak whom he had appointed as the head of Egyptian Armed Forces and Minister for Defence.

Sisi went on to announce his stooge, Adly Mansour the country’s Chief Justice, as the interim leader until new elections were held. Viewing it from another perspective, Mansour’s role was basically to keep the seat warm for Sisi who was conniving to ascend to power as a civilian leader. On 26 March 2014, Sisi citing pressure from his supporters announced that he would be contesting in the presidential elections. The elections were subsequently held between 26 and 28 May of that year and Sisi emerged victorious after defeating his sole opponent Hamdeen Sabhai with a huge margin.

Ever since he came to power Sisi has tightened his grip on power and has jailed thousands of dissidents who have come out to criticise his rule. In April this year, Egypt’s parliament which is largely dominated by his supporters passed amendments that extended his rule to 2030 and gave him power over the courts and parliament. According to many of his critics he has introduced a new form of dictatorship , worse that Mubarak’s, which has eroded the democratic gains of the 2011 revolution.

At the moment, nothing could stop the Sudanese junta leaders from ascending to power if the elections were to be held today. Apart from Sudan not having independent institutions to grant free and fair elections, the leaders have been part of the system for a long time, and are therefore capable to manipulate their way to power with a lot of ease. Since many of them are remnants of the Bashir’s brutal regime , their return to power would be a betrayal of the ideals of the revolutionists, and the continuation of the status quo. Arabs are angry and such a move would come at a price. The only way out of the crisis is the formation of a transitional government of national unity, which would kickstart the democratization process.