Sudan: Deposing a Dictator to Prolong Tyranny

Demonstrators converge on Sudanese Ministry of Defence

April 11 saw the collapse of the regime of General Hassan Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's long-time ruler.

In circumstances that mirror the string of implosions in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt at the start of this decade during the so-called Arab Spring, the protests that brought down Bashir started four months ago, triggered by a sharp rise in the cost of living.

In no time, they had morphed into a full-blown pro-democracy movement albeit minus a central leadership.

As citizens demanded wide-ranging political and economic reforms, they somehow failed to establish to establish coherent structures that would assume power once Bashir was out of the picture.

Bashir is gone but the future is less certain. Sudan is still under the grip of the military under the leadership of Awad ibn Auf, the former vice president and minister of defence under Bashir's regime.

Auf's transitional council has suspended the constitution for three months and announced a two year transition period. Should they be taken at their word?

As we went to bed, not sure if they should trust their new leaders, the protestors were still camped outside the military headquarters in Khartoum.

Until Auf and company can prove otherwise, their coup against Bashir is likely to be seen as an act of self-preservation by the military and a disguised form of Bashir 2.0.

Sudanese civil society say as much in their statement to the African Union on the coup's organisations. They describe the coup as "an attempt by the regime to ensure its survival by sacrificing Bashir."

They see the transitional period under military leadership, a state of emergency and the dissolution of parliament as well as the absence of a plan for transition to civilian rule as evidence of a divergence of interests between the protestors and their current rulers.

While it cannot escape censure for turning a blind eye to oppressive regimes while they last, the African Union was spot on when it pointed out that a coup was hardly a solution to the problems facing Sudan.

The rise in the prices of wheat flour and bread, which triggered the protests last December, is itself emblematic of the challenges facing Sudan.

The loss of a significant share of oil revenue after the independence of South Sudan as well as the military conflict in Darfur have exacted a heavy toll on the economy.

Sudan needs both peace and political and economic reform. But without a minimum consensus, it will be difficult to drive that process.

A viable transition requires confidence building and the collapsed political structures such as parliament, need to be quickly substituted by an inclusive interim arrangement.

As matters stand, the situation is delicate. The army is far from united with a clear divide between the upper and lower ranks.

Protesters standing up to coup makers who have suspended a constitution can also morph into anything because the interim rulers are not accountable to any constitutional order however deficient.

And since the leopard does not change his spots, it would be overly ambitious to think that they would behave any different if they felt threatened.

Editors note: This editorial was published before the head of Sudan's military council Awad Ibn Auf stepped down.

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