Viewing Sudan through a Libyan Telescope – By Abdulyassar Abdulhamid

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Whether we take Abbas’s home – a 29-year-old young Sudanese whose protest, along five other long-time friends, reportedly led to the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir and brought the country’s defense minister then, Ahmed Awaf bn Auf – as a “cell of resistance” or we continue to mercilessly tongue-lash Omar Al-Bashir for being a dictator who ruled for 30 years, treating Sudan as though it is his personal vault, as western media love to phrase it, one has no option but to call the saga a revolution.

Revolution is not something new; world history is replete with it. While some are nonviolent like the 1986 Philippines “people power” revolution that halted the ‘oppressive’ Marcos dictatorship and the 1990 resistance against the ‘inhuman’ apartheid regime in South Africa, others are violent like the 2011 Libya’s Revolution and the Tahrir Square protest during the Arab spring in Egypt.

A very critical observer of the happenings in Sudan cannot help but nurse the question of what Sudan’s future might hold considering the lingering protests here and there; and impending mayhem.

For almost a month and blip, protests have taken over major Khartoum streets. Protesters can be seen at the army headquarters. They chant freedom songs and slogans coined to galvanize the protests. Pilgrims of protesters holding signboards and the country’s flag go to the site a day. Now, Al-Bashir who ruled for three decades has been transferred to a solitary confinement in prison.

Sudan now is under a transitional military government led by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan Abdelrahman and his deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo. Yet from the goings-on there is no clear path forward for Sudan. No one knows how long the transitional government will stay in power or when will the protests die out. What is for sure is that there are dubious moves by the army and the protesters to reach an agreement.

The most recent protest was born out of skyrocketing price of bread. On December 19, 2018, the city of Atbara was agog with furious protesters setting fire on local headquarters of the ruling party, National Congress Party.

Although it is not yet Uhuru for Sudan, the Sudan revolution may well be similar to Algeria’s in the sense that no single bullet was shot as the protesters in both countries managed to overthrow their ‘perceived’ autocratic leaders in a matter of months.

The protesters in both countries can be likened to an armless bull fighter, who managed to floor the bull, however fierce and one-sided the contest.

If there is any well articulated lesson the Sudanese have learnt from Algerians it is that protests must go on until a the demand for transparent system of accountability is installed; but they have never considered Libya as a case study.

In Algeria, weeks-long protests have forced Boutelifka out of April’s presidential election contest. Simply put no fifth term for him anyway. The uncertainty in Algeria is akin to that of Sudan. Suspected term extension for Boutelifka is in place. As Annas Rahim wrote, “election has been postponed sine die (without future date being designated)”. Algeria may seem to have weathered the storm of Arab Spring; it is not endgame for Algerians yet.

To flash back, Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid is considered the birth place of the Tunisia Revolution. Just a year and a half after the ouster of Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali, another discontent with the state of the country is rearing its head.

The Tunisia Revolution marked the starting point of the so named “Arab Spring”. On December17, 2010, one Mohammed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old street vendor, had his fresh produce cart forfeited and spanked severely by a security agent. Realizing that Local officials were not ready to listen to his grievances and overcome by frustration resulting from his public humiliation, Bouazizi set himself on fire to the view of bewildering locals in the town of Sidi Bouzid.

This opened a floodgate of protests hinged on social inequality, corruption, unemployment, among others, across the country. Zine al Abedine Ben Ali had ruled for 23 years. His ouster supposedly egged on other similar countries to ape Tunisians. So they did.

Banned political parties have resumed operation. Political exiles returned to Tunisia. Political prisoners freed. Since then the so-called Arab Spring has made inroads into Algeria, Libya, Egypt and now Sudan.

In both Egypt and Tunisia, two countries that can attest to bloody revolutions, economic growth is moving at a snail’s pace. Unemployment is growing at child’s Christmas list. Social inequality is more pronounced now. If there is anything achieved in Tunisia to date it is the so-called freedom of press, with Tunisian press feeling all the world of itself.

Sudan is toeing the line of Libya. Libya has ungraciously moved from a prosperous nation – oil rich and economically vibrant – to a failed state.

Unfortunately today there are two governments in Libya, among other forces, vying for control of the seat of power in Tripoli. In Tripoli alone there are two opposing governments: the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and the other is the Tobruk-based LNA, led by General Khalifa Hafta.

The happenings in Sudan evoke the memories of the Libyan Revolution. Demonstrations against Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule in February 2011 were met with live ammunitions.

In the same month anti-Ganddafi militias evicted forces loyal to Gaddafi and took control of Misrata. The United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Gaddafi and referred Gaddafi’s crack-down on the militias to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

However, on October 20, 2011, the haggard Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was dragged out of a drain pipe, tortured publically and killed. From then on Libya has known no peace.

Presently, Libya is another reincarnation of “slave trade”. Anarchy has taken over the land. Black Africans who went there for menial jobs and stranded by the civil war are chained, bought and sold. Libya today may have its own sugarcane plantation, where the blacks work, and are beaten to death for raising a hand against the master.

Libya’s economy has stagnated. The oil industry production, which can be compared to a life support to Libya’s economy, has fallen.

Any split in the Sudanese transitional government, as of Libya, will create more fissures in the country. Soldiers loyal to the deposed al-Bashir may speak through their arms or the protesters may decide to take arm against the recalcitrant army. Any of this will end up as a spark that will light the powder keg.   

Now it is the African Union’s turn, not the United Nations’, to step up efforts to mediate between the transitional government and the protesters in Sudan. The United Nations intervention in Libya has proven itself a failure. That single resolution issued by the body to make the state a no-fly zone due to the increasing casualties, which called “operation save Libya by whatever means” has led to a war-torn Libya.

An early view of Sudan through a Libyan telescope will save a whole nation and put a stop to the uprising that is tearing the region apart.

Abdulhamid wrote from Kano via [email protected]

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