Reason for optimism in Sudan

What the Sudanese did was more akin to a miracle than anything else. Sudan now has a chance to make up for what it missed in the past.
Tuesday 22/12/2020
A 2019 file photo shows Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok speaking during a news conference in Khartoum, Sudan. (AP)
A 2019 file photo shows Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok speaking during a news conference in Khartoum, Sudan. (AP)

One year ago, Omar al-Bashir’s rule ended in Sudan.

The Sudanese were able to get rid of his oppressive 30-year rule and prove to the world that they still had the will to live and resist injustice.

What the Sudanese did was more akin to a miracle than anything else. The important thing now is whether or not they’ll be able to take their country back into their hands and establish a new regime that is sensitive to the need to deal with regional and international changes using an approach completely free of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology.

In the end, the Muslim Brotherhood has failed miserably to completely change the nature of Sudanese society despite its persistent efforts to do so for 30 years, including by establishing schools devoted to teaching its ideology.

The Sudanese won, thanks to their refusal of all forms of backwardness, especially the backwardness of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had turned Sudan into a farm devoted to its service and the service of a person who only cared about staying in power at any cost.

Bashir is exactly like Syria’s Bashar Assad. This is why it was not a coincidence that he was the only Arab president to set foot in Damascus at a time when Assad’s minority regime was involved in a war against the Syrian people since 2011. Even before 2011, the best the Assad regime could do for Syrian citizens was humiliate and oppress them by all means possible.

Concretely, the Arab Spring arrived in Sudan nine years late, but unlike in other Arab countries, with the exception of Egypt, the change that Sudan witnessed suggests there is hope for a better future for the country and its people.

This is due, above all, to the fact that Sudan has moved away from the demagoguery that characterised Bashir.

The year 2021 will be an important year for Sudan, only because it will become clear whether the country will be able to proceed on the path of developing itself on every level, or will once again plunge into the quagmire of its multi-faceted internal crises, including religious, ethnic and regional divisions.

In the post-Bashir era, Sudan has changed into a promising country that has the ability to deal with reality. Perhaps the best evidence of this is the balance that exists between the military and civilians, as the two sides converge in the need for Sudan to open up on and to the world instead of continuing on with the game previously practiced by the Bashir regime of blackmailing the rest of the world.

Thanks to this openness, Sudan has been removed from the US list of countries supporting terrorism, a list that is very easy to join but extremely difficult to leave. Sudan has fulfilled the required conditions to turn back into a normal state accepted by the international community, a state that does not survive on renting out its loyalty to the highest bidder, be it Iran or Turkey … or this Arab country or the other.

What distinguished Bashir’s regime was its ability to change positions with lightning speed on the one hand, and deal with various Sudanese regions in a way that showed it believed the fate of the Sudanese people as individuals and as a nation was the least of its concerns on the other.

It is no surprise then that Bashir could give up the southern half of Sudan, which gained independence, and practice brutal repression through his militias in Darfur, all for the sake of staying in power.

For three decades, Sudan has lived in totally abnormal conditions, for which there is no other explanation besides the ruler’s lust for power.

There is still no common sense explanation for why Bashir and his Islamist cohorts agreed to give safe haven to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Venezuelan terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, also known as Carlos the Jackal, who used to work for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and then decide to give them up. Bin Laden was expelled and Carlos handed over to French authorities, who accuse him of killing two French policemen in Paris. Why accept them as heroes just to sell them down the river later on? Nobody really knows. Is this any way to run a country?

Sudan now has a chance =to make up for what it missed in the past. All it has to do is learn from its past experiences since independence. The reason for optimism is the existing understanding, within reason, between civilians and the military, between the government of Abdalla Hamdok and the military council headed by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, to cover each other’s backs. Such cooperation has never been seen before in Sudan’s history. Since the country’s independence in 1956, it was just coup after coup, starting with the coup by Ibrahim Abboud, followed by Jaafar Nimeiry’s coup in 1969, and ending with the coup by Bashir and his comrades in June of 1989, with the political cover of Hassan al-Turabi and his Islamist allies. Nimeiry’s coup, inspired by the Nasserite experiment in Egypt and other Arab countries, plunged the country into the abyss of dictatorial regimes that had no idea what went on in the civilised world around them, much like what happened in Libya under Muammar Gadhafi or in Syria under Hafez Assad.

With one year of democratic change under its belt, Sudan deserves all the help it can get. It is true that many dangers still threaten the country, including the tension that appears from time to time between military and civilian authorities, but it is also true that there are signs of optimism. Among these is the public’s reaction to the steps taken by the new authorities to secure the country’s removal from the US terrorism list. Sudan is no longer a rogue state. More than that, it is adopting a wise and prudent approach to regional issues, including on the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and what is happening in the Ethiopian Tigray region.

We all know how important the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa are to the countries of the region and to world powers. This explains why Russia is seeking a military presence in the Port Sudan, the country’s most important port.

Much in the future will depend on the ability of the new Sudanese regime, which has not yet taken its final form, to secure internal stability, but that should not be a major problem in a new “normal” Sudan, a country that is reconciled with itself first, with an open society, far from the Muslim Brotherhood ideology and from the illusion of being able to blackmail and extort the world by harbouring terrorists and then using them as pressure cards here and there. That game is over for good. It seems that the Sudanese have understood this early enough and decided to put an end to a regime that was anything but civilised.