Sudan: Al-Bashir's Divine Rule

Photo: Sudanow
The Central Bank of Sudan

The spread of demonstrations and sit-ins before the army headquarters have revealed an obscure face of former President Omar Al-Bashir: He has solid belief that his rule is a divine one. And it is only Allah, not angry protestors, who will show him the exit door. Based on this belief he was willing to go as far it takes to secure his grip on power.

According to Editor-in-Chief of Al-Tayyar newspaper Osman Mirghani, who quoting members of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) said that Al-Bashir told his aides that based on a ruling by Imam Malik it is permissible to annihilate one third of the nation for the sake of the remaining two thirds. The reference to that ruling was a clear indication of Al-Bashir's willingness to stage a bloodbath to maintain his power. That was a tipping point for his ouster.

Back in January and in less than three weeks from the start of the anti-demonstration Al-Bashir granted his first interview to a London-based small TV station, Al-Mustakilla, run by one of his sympathizers.

In that interview he went at length to explain his beliefs quoting from Quran:

Say, "O God, Owner of Sovereignty. You grant sovereignty to whom You will, and You strip sovereignty from whom you will. You honor whom you will, and You humiliate whom you will. In Your hand is all goodness. You are Capable of all things." Family of Imran, 26.

To support his argument he mentioned a story that back in the 1990s five armies from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda and Ghana backed by the United States were planning an attack to change his regime, but eventually it was the Allah's hand that intervened pushing Ethiopia and Eritrea into war as well as between Uganda and Rwanda and the whole planning was crippled. His regime was saved.

But in addition to this belief lies a shrewd, survivalist politician who knows well how and when to lay low, how undermine his potential rivals by applying the golden rule of divide and rule to emerge as the sole leading figure in the government, its party, the National Congress (NC) and the Islamic Movement (IM) that brought him to power in the first place.

For the first ten years of his rule it was the late Hassan El-Turabi, the IM leader, who orchestrated the coup and was seen and treated as the prime force behind the new regime. Eventually Al-Bashir managed to build alliances within the IM making use of his nominal position as president and sacked El-Turabi with the help of his disciples in 1999.

Taking note from the fact that El-Turabi's disciples have turned on him and they may repeat the same game, he went on to tighten his grip on centers of power that led eventually in having the army, the security and the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) reporting directly to him to play one against the other and deter and block opposition from winning sympathy from these forces.

However, with the popular uprising that has been going on for record time compared to Sudan's previous popular uprisings in 1964, 1985 and those related to Arab Spring, but with no clear window for a breakthrough in the economic situation that continued to deteriorate by the hour the only option left was for Al-Bashir to give in politically.

But with his solid belief in his divine rule, he simply pushed the army, the security and RDF to join hands to oust him out of power. And that is why TMC composition reflected the forces behind the change.

This raises an important question on how to block such a possibility in future. The start is for the IM to review critically its commitment to multi-party democracy and such review does not end with a PR statement, but more in depth ideological and political review translated into new commitments and programs.

More important is how the political parties and civil society organizations can build a solid barrier against such eventuality. The starting point is for the Professionals Association to repeal effectively the current regulations restricting unions' formation and open the way for free establishment of professionals trade unions as well as popular committees in housing areas to start building up democratic institutions at grassroots levels as a first step towards a durable democratic transformation.

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