Op-ed: Can Sudan’s Al Bashir survive his last days in power?

By Salah Shuaib
As raucous protests mount against Al Bashir’s regime in Sudan’s capital and elsewhere in the country, Sudan is now at the most dangerous moment of its modern history.

Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir (File photo)

By Salah Shuaib

As raucous protests mount against Al Bashir’s regime in Sudan’s capital and elsewhere in the country, Sudan is now at the most dangerous moment of its modern history.

The deteriorating economic situation, which is the well-seen factor of the crisis, threatens the stability of the country – in the absence of practical government solutions to the escalating rise in prices, the rise of the inflation rate, the official government devaluation of the Sudanese Pound, the reduction in cash withdrawals, and the disruption of all productive projects of the state and the private sector.

While the protests began in the city of Atbara in northern Sudan after the rising cost of bread, they have now expanded in most cities of Sudan, aimed at overthrowing Al Bashir regime. But with the failure of Sudanese power to find an immediate way out of its crises, the main concern of most of its leaders has turned to how they protect power by deepening tyranny. As a result, approximately 37 people were killed, besides those hundreds who were injured.

To overcome the situation, the government has also declared a state of emergency in several Sudanese towns that witnessed large protests, as well as imposing curfews and shutting down newspapers and stopping some internet services. But all these precautionary procedures don’t help in curbing popular trends to continue the peaceful struggle until reaching its future national goals.

The opposition move

Sudan’s major political parties have so far gathered and insisted that the solution to Sudan’s crises lies in the resignation of Bashir and the handover of his power to the people. The opposition components have made a great effort to expand its umbrella of cooperation and to establish a broader coalition for those who want change.

These protests facing aggressive riot police have been now active by civil society organisations and large sectors of youth and social media activists. Thus, the political scene appeared to be a hot conflict zone shared by supporters of the regime and the people of Sudan, while the international and regional community are keeping eye with great concern.

“The government should respond to legitimate grievances of the Sudanese people,” a statement issued by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Despite this urgent statement, the government has adamantly been ignoring all the reports issued by the international organisations concerning the regime’s repressive behaviours versus its people.

Regional and international influence

Instead, the regime’s leaders always believe that there are many conspiracies targeting their “Islamic doctrine”. In his last address following the protest events in the city of Wad Madani, Al Bashir claimed that the economic hardship the country faces is basically caused by regional and international governments that do not prefer the presence of those countries practicing Islamic laws.

At the time the regime is desperately trying to find security solutions as the only means to avoid its protracted crises, there is little to show that its external pursuit of solutions will enable it to have urgent economic support to stave off the dilemma. With the fluctuation of regional positions of Bashir, it doesn’t seem that he will be successful this time to gain time for his brokering regime.

Regional and international concern

There are indications that the heavy interest of some TV Channels such as El Arabiya and Sky News to cover Sudan’s current protests represents a kind of decline in supporting Al Bashir from both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, despite that he sent his troops to Yemen on behalf of Riyad to fight against the Shiite Houthist.

The looming horror Al Bashir and his aides face now as a result of systematic protests taking place in the whole country is not mainly coming from the possibility of losing power, but of international or local criminal prosecution in the event of the fall of the bloody regime.

“These killings must stop. Opening fire on unarmed protesters cannot be justified and what is clearly needed now is an independent, efficient investigation into these events. All those responsible for unnecessary or excessive use of force, including those with command responsibility, must be brought to justice.”, said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. It seems that the severe repression the demonstrators have faced from the country’s security forces and Al Bashir’s threatening statements against them reflect a concern for the sustainability of power.

But the protesters’ urgent insistence on putting an end to the Sudanese regime is motivated this time by the readiness of making all the available sacrifices to get both food and freedom, since the demonstrating crowds have been put in desperate situations by the regime for nearly three decades.

Hurdles of change

What is accurately observed in Sudan’s recent protests is that they were first centred in the peripheral regions. “The current wave of protest is different in several important ways. This was not an elite-driven process, but a genuinely popular uprising, emanating from the periphery, not from Khartoum.” said Abdelwahab El Affendi, a Sudanese Islamist and the Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.

In the both two previous revolutions that took place in Sudan in 1964 and 1985, the entire waves of protests happened in Khartoum, where the political parties and labour unions forced the national army to intervene to overthrow the two dictators, Ibrahim Aboud and Jaafar El Nimeiri.

But now, Al Bashir, who seized power through the 1989 military coup, sponsored by the Islamic National Front (INF) have eradicated all the influence of labour unions. Instead, the regime has employed the Islamists to run the country’s labour unions which ultimately sustain the regime presence rather than to help those who they falsely represent to get their rights.

In order to fill the gap in the absence of the unified leadership that sponsors and lead the protests, opposition parties have created a national umbrella to agree on plans for change. In this regard, what they called the “Professionals Association” has launched its first activity by calling for a march in Khartoum to deliver a message to the Sudanese presidency last Wednesday. In the view of El Wasig Kimir, a Sudanese prominent academic and politician, that “there is a need for a comprehensively constitutional process that does not exclude anyone to establish the rule of law and citizenship when real change comes”.

Inevitable democratic change

It is clear that the regional and international caution about what is happening in Sudan today is gaining importance from the distinguish geopolitical situation of the country. On the one hand, there is a fear that these protests, escalating among the regime’s intransigence, may lead to a civil war among the Sudanese factions, who are associated with alliances in the region’s ideological, ethnic and geo-strategic conflicts. Unless Bashir’s opponents who want change to seriously stand up to the coming challenges of the Sudanese crisis, the worst scenario may take place.

But the chances for a democratic settlement are enhanced by the fact that the Sudanese people is accumulating a rich revolutionary legacy against dictatorship, no matter how they were complicating the country’s historic crises. In addition, the Islamic regime is now reeling very fast and has been losing its local, regional and international allies in the crisis every day, because of its total failure. Indeed, several government supporters amid rising public anger were still surprising the political scene by escaping the sunken ship, condemning the violence the regime engages with and taking bias towards calls for inevitable change.


* Salah Shuaib is a Sudanese journalist who has been in the media field for more than three decades in Sudan, Egypt, and the United States, where he worked as a correspondent for major Arab newspapers and magazines. He authored two biographies about Sudanese figures and is the general secretary of the Sudanese-American Journalists Association, based in Washington.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributing author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Radio Dabanga.