4 March 2018

Sudan: Changing Times


In a period of little over two weeks Sudan witnessed three major changes in the army, the ruling political party and above all the security agency. Though that of the army is dubbed routine, the one of the party was highly expected, while the real bombshell was re-instating Salah Abdalla, known as Salah Gosh as head of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

Reinstating Salah Gosh as head of NISS again after he was relieved from the same position nine years earlier was a remarkable development because he was accused of participating into an alleged military coup that landed him eight months in the prison.

But more important is to see how the new comeback will make a difference into the current tense politico-economic scene. After all following his relief from NISS, Gosh was appointed national security advisor, a post he used to engage into a national dialogue with various political groups including those into opposition in an attempt to create an environment for a genuine dialogue that can lead to some form of national consensus. However, that brief stint was abruptly dismantled. And the question now is to what extent he will use that experience to further the issue of reconciliation bearing in mind that the current government is committed to the National Dialogue that so far has produced hardly any tangible results aside from an expanded government that has yet to show its prints on the scene.

As for the change in the National Congress Party (NCP) its malaise and weakness have been so obvious that many thought change at the helm is long overdue. The party failed to discipline its membership in states to the extent that it forced President Omar Al-Bashir to intervene in states like Gezira and River Nile. Also NCP showed complete ineptitude in spearheading a political campaign to communicate the new budget and accompanying severe economic and fiscal measures and provided the necessary political backing to the government.

In these cases the obvious feature is the pressing need for change, but what change?

Aside from the names and policies involved in these change movements there is more radical approach that needs to be tested and goes back to the early days of Sudan as an independent state. For all practical purposes Sudan was run by an elitist club be it civilian or military, left or right, traditional or modern. The apex of this trend was the popular uprising of October 1964 that toppled the first military regime, almost half a century before the Arab Spring.

However, that euphoria did not last long and five years later the tanks were rolling and putting an end to the short-lived second multi party parliamentary experience. After 16 years the second military regime was toppled by yet another popular revolution, which was followed by a brief third parliamentary experience that was overtaken by the current regime.

During more than six decades of Sudan as an independent state the main feature became political and economic instability and that failure is attributed mainly to the elites who were running the country all these decades, but were locked mainly into their personal ambitions without paying serious attention to the nation building.

That became possible because grassroots were not part of the equation. Despite multi-party system and parliamentary elections the popular dimension was remarkably absent expect for election campaigns, but hardly any tangible presence in socio, economic fields.

Over the years the elitist approach came to a dead end in terms of leadership, ideas and policies, but things have changes in terms of the structure of the elites themselves and their composition given their growing numbers. More important is the area related to the role of the state and its machinery, where its ability to provide jobs, services and venture into development continue to diminish over time.

The vacuum opened the way for the private sector to step in to be the main engine in pushing the economy. And a clear signal into this trend is the new program adopted by the government and worked out mainly by the private sector to promote and increase exports, but for such attempt to succeed it needs a better political environment and that is where the exercise for change should focus.


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