Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 4 February 2011

Sudan and the roaring waves of Tunisia and Egypt


By Hamid Eltgani Ali

January 3, 2011 — At the dawn of the twenty-first century, where the entire world seems to be coming together as a global society to advance the human cause of a better life for all without prejudice, stigma, and wars, Sudan, Africa’s most promising country, is decimated by wars, violence, and lack of individual liberties. President Al-Bashir, who elected himself multiple times through fraudulent and farcical elections, has ruled the country with an iron fist and explosive violence for more than two decades. In return, the county is violently revolting, from its peripheries, against the concentration of power and wealth by the political oligarchs of the National Congress Party and their entourages. This scorch from the edges will soon engulf the capital, the epicenter of power and wealth. Moreover, the roaring waves of Tunisian and Egyptian’s revolution can be felt in Khartoum by the youth and Northern opposition leaders.

The political climate is rife with uncertainty, but what is clear is that the South of Sudan is gone, not only with its oil but with its people. We have lost the beauty of diversity. The heart and the soul of the country are gone with it. Darfur was left in ruins and millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) are yearning for freedom and justice. However, the ruling elites of the NCP and their families have opulent lifestyles, indulging in conspicuous wealth, while poverty and inequality are festering in every corner of the country. The government kleptocracy has squandered the oil money, either through military spending or massed into Swiss bank accounts as recently revealed by Wikileaks. The military and the security apparatus consume about 78 percent of the budget, while education and health together consume about 6 percent of the total budget. Ironically, when the government could not borrow for four consecutive months from foreign creditors, they followed austerity measures and made deep cuts in education and health, while the spending on military and the security apparatus came out unscathed. What nice priorities!

The minister of finance did not tell the truth when he introduced those measures at 2:00 AM one night to be approved by rubber-stamp legislatures. I will tell you the truth. The international community, including China and the Arab countries, refused to lend to Sudan because it is not creditworthy. That is why the government ran out of foreign reserves. Making matters worse is the exodus of investors, for the obvious reasons. The sole reason that the budget is in the red is the ICC indictment and the continuing conflict in Darfur. Sad to say, a promising country is left hanging on the defunct ideology of Al-Bashir and his old guard. The country has become the “object” instead of the “subject”; in other words, the country becomes the agenda of every country, instead of being part of the community of nations to solve problems. Today even Somalia has an envoy to Sudan! Virtually nothing valuable, no resource, is left in the country except a president who is embittered by the trauma of indictment and a future that might reserve a place for him in the same class with Louise XV, Ceaucescu and Augusto Pinochet. What a shame.

Moreover, there is deep delusion and festering anger over the current political discourse in which this regime is engaged. The ruling class is blackmailed by the rest of the world. In order for them to avoid accountability for their dreadful actions, they are auctioning the country for cheap. They are willing to give up the pride of the country and its people for their own survival. They lack the vision and strategy to explain why they want to govern. They have lost their legitimacy and moral ground, and do not have the caliber of people needed to keep the country going. For example, they doled out government posts based on loyalty rather than competence. They are consumed by conspiracy, mistrust, and micro-issues. They cannot inspire. When they realized that the South was going to secede, they took the Abyia small enclave to The Hague to be arbitrated by the ICC. They have bungled the issue of Southern Sudan because they lack the courage, the wisdom, and the will to pay the price for unity; they are not interested in South.

The iron rule and the police state for more than two decades did not teach them that power has its own limits. You cannot use the same hammer from the tool box all the time. For example, the demands of the Darfuri have never stopped, even after 300,000 deaths and 3 million IDPs, and the northern opposition demands for freedom, liberty, and pluralism have never dissipated. Do they learn? Ben Ali of Tunisia has learned after 23 years in power. When will the Al-Bashir oligarchy learn? It might be in a courtroom in The Hague. The Sudanese people achieved two revolutions, in 1964 and 1985. In both instances, the people stood up to uproot notorious military dictators, even though those dictators, relatively speaking, were “benign dictators” compared to the Al-Bashir regime. The conditions are ripe for a change. However, this change should not be for the sake of change; it must have purpose and a master plan to save the country. The international community should tie the rope around the regime now. The southern referendum has been secured. There is a need for a new regime to secure and transition Southern Sudan to be a viable country. The people of Sudan are demanding that relations with South as a new state be amicable. However, the Al-Bashir regime will use the continuing issues of the debt, Abyei, and citizenship for tactical gain, further eroding the confidence of the Southern. I strongly believe that the decisive vote of the Southern Sudan citizens is a protest vote against the government rather than against the people of Sudan. I have no doubt that one day, when we have an inclusive country that respects diversity, inclusiveness, and good governance, we will regain the unity of the country, if we have the courage to pay the price for that unity.

The Al-Bashir regime must go today rather than tomorrow in order to have a viable country. The youth and the opposition parties should be organized, with an agenda that focuses on democracy, freedom, rule of law, equality, justice and peace in Darfur. More importantly, the Darfuri movements should join hands with the youth and the northern opposition to transition the country from its smoldering conditions.

The Obama administration should know that quick fixes of the Sudan issue might be good politics but not a good policy. Covering a deep wound with a small bandage won’t help. A quick fix will mean that the Darfuri will not accept a raw deal, even if the current Darfuri leaders are all gone; new leadership will rise to keep up the struggle. Quick fixes will hardly slip the Darfur issue away from the consciousness of the Americans and the rest of the civilized world. As long as there are grievances, there will be someone to stand up against what is wrong. Furthermore, it is matter of time before the rest of Sudan—including the East, the Blue Nile, Kordofan, and the Nubia Mountains—will revolt. Therefore, a long-term solution will kill two birds with one stone. The grievances and the core issues of peace, democracy, and justice must be addressed across Sudan, including but not limited to Darfur, in order to have a lasting peace. The power structure must be changed for good. The country is in need of objective standards to redistribute the wealth and power to all regions. A holistic approach to Sudan’s problems is the recommended policy.

Any quick fixes in the presence of the current regime will only mean a weaker Sudan. The regime will resort to radicalism and the suppression of dissidents to cling to power. The country will break apart, another failed state in the heart of Africa. Southern Sudan will also be a failed state, which will adversely affect the United States’ national security as well. Let us opt for a holistic approach rather than incremental and quick fixes that evaporate before their ink is dry. The change must come from within, and the rest of the world can help. The youth, the Darfuri movements and the Northern opposition parties should start the dialogue and form a new alliance to free the nation from tyranny and substitute the rule of law for the rule of men. The nation is yearning for the dawn of freedom, liberty, and justice for all. This is the time and opportunity to end the rule of the old guard once and for all, if we learn anything from waves of democracy in Tunisia and Egypt.

Hamid Eltgani Ali, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, School of Global Affairs, American University in Cairo, can be reached at: hamid.hali@gmail.com

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  • 4 February 2011 19:16, by Facts Check

    Professor Hamid,

    I agree with your opinion from your retrospect. I know you regret being used to solidify the oppression regime of Al Bashir and the rest to subjugate Southerners.

    I wish that everything could be well for you in the north but the reality is that you will pay for being part of conspirators against southerners in the struggle to liberate entire country under the New Sudan Vision but you failed to lived up to great promise within that vision.

    I want to see you appreciate liberation struggle by spending some days in the desert and bushes with out water and food. I am a revolutionaist and sympathize with you but I don’t think you understand the cost of freedom. Freedom can never to handed to you so you need to work hard on the ground and less talking. Once you push the government to the limit than they will accept your terms of negotiations.

    I can not tell you everything in this forum so I will just stop I hope you get the point. As I have said before I am ready to continue to cause of struggle for all Sudanese by providing my specialize technical field expertize if necessary. I thank God for this gift.

    repondre message

  • 6 February 2011 00:13, by Ahmed

    Greetings Dr. Hamid,

    Wonderful article, however, the so called northern opposition parties in Sudan have lost any credible legitimacy or moral authority to represent anybody but their own selves... I think they actually belong to a Fossil Museum rather than a Political Theater. Throughout the modern history (last 50 – 60 years), they consistently failed over and over again to actually read and interact with some of the basic national challenges faced and still facing the country "or whatever left of it". Replacing the current ruling Junta with either some of the Northern or Darfurian opposition fronts that are led by figures who have long-established history of being involved in torturing and killing people in Sudan (i.e. Al Turabi & Khalil Ebrahim) is like replacing the devil with his cousin. Moreover, when you consider the others... sadly, because of the entrenched tribal culture ruling our society, instead of the devil’s cousin, we’ll end up with a moronic figure just because his great, great, great grandfather led a revolution against the colonial powers almost 2 centuries ago... I don’t know why Egyptians are not seeking Ahmed Orabi’s grand children to lead their country after Mubarak... nor Omar Al Mukhtar’s descendants for the Libyans... and the same for the Algerians and others in the neighborhood. Why the leadership in Sudan “ONLY” has to be acquire a common Genetic Consensus rather than Common sense?


    repondre message

  • 6 February 2011 04:49, by Martin Garang Aher

    Presumtive and euphoric article though! Just know that NCP would have done nothing really to hold on to the south no matter what the price they paid. One grant price had already been paid by Northerners in the cause of history of southern grievances, but that has not soothed the problem. Southerners’ dislike for you in the north is vein deep. Even those still cuddling in their mothers wombs are ready to pop out and raise their fists towards the northern direction.

    We do not like you northerners. You and your hereditary leaders, disguised faithfuls in Allah, and morally blind perverts. Let me tell you, if I were a muslim leader in the north, I would have made all southerners superb believers in Islam voluntarily by taking a noble course. But your wisdom is euphoric just like it is in Tunisia and Egypt. Reactionary rather than proactiveness.

    The grant national reform you seem confident to talk about, is actually the new sudan agenda advanced for decades by the SPLA/M. You must recognise your ideological sources. Do you think this agenda is favourable today just because Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, etc are rioting? it is a hypocracy.

    South sudan will never be a failed state. You will feel the pain of jealousy in your bones when this proud nations cruises by with a speed unimaginable to you.

    So, don’t even dream that South Sudan will one day reunite with you. You can say so to make yourself happy and quench your gross disappointment but the reality will hit home by the end of the day.

    repondre message

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