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Fall of Sudan’s strongman sends signals to Cameroon, Uganda, others


Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir gestures with his walking cane as he addresses members of the Popular Defence Force (PDF), a paramilitary group, in the capital Khartoum on February 12, 2019. – The PDF is a type of reserve unit that has frequently fought on the side of Sudanese armed forces against ethnic minority rebels in the country’s war zones of Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

The fall of Sudan’s strongman Omar Al-Bashir yesterday elicited reactions from the global community with Mali’s Prime Minister Moussa Mara saying his “departure” shares the same principle with that of Algeria’s 82-year-old Abdelaziz Bouteflika who resigned as president following weeks of protest by citizens.

Mara, in a statement issued in response to an enquiry by The Guardian, said the increasingly young and connected (and therefore demanding) African population would be less and less tolerant of leaders as “special situations” become “detonators of these movements.”

“When a president, after 30 years in power, is still struggling to allow a regular supply of basic necessities in his country and takes unbearable measures for the purse of the weakest, he will face a popular movement,” Mara told The Guardian through one of his aides.

“It will be the same when he tries to stay in power despite disappointing results.” According to him, the Sudan experience is promising for democratic renewal and socio-economic progress of the continent.

Early morning reports had announced al-Bashir’s resignation and hand over of power to the military council. But the military council in a subsequent statement by General Awad Ibn Auf claimed it seized power from 75-year-old Bashir, who had been taken to a “safe place” after “toppling the regime.” He announced the formation of a two-year military-led transitional government.

“The armed forces will take power with representation of the people, to pave the way for Sudanese people to live in dignity,” said Ibn Auf, the country’s vice president and defence minister who also declared a three-month state of emergency and the suspension of the 2005 Constitution. The military council dissolved all Sudan’s government institutions plus the national assembly and national council of ministers.

However, protesters who had staged a mass sit-in outside the complex calling for the army to support their bid to peacefully oust al-Bashir, yesterday rejected the ‘military coup’ as announced by Ibn Auf.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which had been spearheading the protests, insisted it would continue with demonstrations just as it demanded the hand over of power to a civilian transitional government to reflect the “forces of the revolution.”

Veteran international journalist John Chiahemen, while agreeing with Mara’s position, in a chat with The Guardian yesterday night, said: “The world today is witnessing populist movements from Hungary to Italy and France and indeed to Britain and the United States — all changing the established political order.

“Sudan and other Arab-dominated states of Africa missed out on the tide of pro-democracy change that swept across the continent in the early 1990s, toppling military rulers or single-party regimes from Benin to Mali and further across Sub-Saharan Africa.

“The country also managed to escape the Arab Spring democratic uprisings that began in Tunisia in December 2010 and quickly spread to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. So, you could say al-Bashir was ousted by Arab Spring 2.0,” Chiahemen said.

“The question remains how he would have imagined he could survive the unstoppable tsunami of popular revolt when much stronger peers like Muammar Gaddafi of Libya or Hosni Mubarak of Egypt could not.”

According to Mr. Chiahemen, popular uprisings of Sudan’s kind tend to produce ripple effects with an unexpected reach. He recalled that the pro-democracy movements in Sub-Saharan Africa came right on the heels of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. He warned that the interconnected world of social media and viral videos have made the globe a single village.

“Hopefully, the holdout dictators of Africa like Cameroon’s Paul Biya, Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda can hear the fire engines,” he said.

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