The Sudanese Fight for Democracy
Thursday, April 11, 2019 will be a day long remembered in Sudanese history. After four months of mass protests, the military overthrew President Omar al-Bashir, the man responsible for a 30-year long repressive regime, in response to the demonstrators’ demands.
Bashir had taken power in Sudan as a military officer in 1989 and was notorious to both the Sudanese people and leaders around the world. He was leading Sudan in it’s 21-year long war in southern Sudan, which resulted in the independence of South Sudan in 2011. In the 1990s, he triggered American sanctions by hosting Osama bin Laden.
The 75-year old leader was also the only active leader of a nation that was wanted by the International Criminal Court. Bashir was accused of playing an “essential role” in the Darfur genocide by presiding over the forces that raped, terrorized, and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.
While the ousting of Bashir, which comes just one week after the fall of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, seems like a victory, demonstrators remain on the streets. It is not enough to topple a man, and the Sudanese people are fighting for the end of a regime.
On Saturday, just two days after the fall of the president, it was announced that the intelligence chief, Salah Gosh, would step down as well. The ousting of Gosh, who was considered the second most powerful man in Sudan, was considered another victory in the struggle for democracy. Gosh’s resignation had directly followed the coup leader Defence Minister Awad Ibn Auf stepping down as head of the interim government.
Following Gosh’s resignation, the new leader of Sudan’s interim military council, Lt-Gen Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan, spoke on TV. He pledged to "uproot the regime," restructure state institutions, end the night curfew, and release political prisoners. Most importantly, Gen Burhan, who is much more popular than Mr Ibn Auf, declared respect for human rights.
Despite this more conciliatory tone, demonstrators are still on the streets demanding an immediate move to civilian rule. Currently, the army is supposed to keep "peace, order and security" across Sudan for no more than two years as the country prepares for elections and a transition to civilian rule. Many are weary of promises from the military.
Many from the general public have said that the current events in North Africa resemble the Arab Spring in 2011, and ask if these two recent oustings will reverberate through the region. What is clear is that the Sudanese people seem to have learned from the Arab Spring, and don’t want their country to simply fall under another regime. Demonstrators are suspicious of the army and its intentions. Only in the coming weeks will the trajectory of Sudan be more discernible.