Sudan’s real bogeyman

To hint at the fact that it is time for al-Bashir to go, the Sudanese are the ones who are asking him: “What time is it now, Mr President?”
Sunday 24/02/2019
Unbowed. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir addresses supporters at a rally in Khartoum, January 9. (AP)
Unbowed. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir addresses supporters at a rally in Khartoum, January 9. (AP)

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir did not specify the foreign powers inciting the protests against his government. He presents this claim as a bogeyman to intimidate his fellow citizens but that is not the only bogeyman that al-Bashir has employed nor is he the first head of state to use a bogeyman. Many tyrants before him have done so.

The problem is that inventing scarecrows and bogeymen is a twisted ruse. Outwardly, the “inventors” are trying to frighten others but they are the ones being frightened.

Al-Bashir has every right to be afraid of his own bogeyman because he has made many mistakes.

The Sudanese, like all God’s children, did not ask for miracles from their government but it failed at everything anyway. You can see these failures in every aspect of the Sudanese’ lives, and the government’s failure has reached the price of their daily bread.

I don’t know what more al-Bashir needs for him to admit that he let his people down and that his regime, which has always whined about “foreign conspiracies” and resorted to them as a pretext for more oppression, is itself a conspiracy against Sudanese livelihoods.

Look at skyrocketing inflation rates since al-Bashir took over to see the extent of the disaster.

The bogeyman could have been scary if it had been a foreign agent or if there had been any remaining breathing space in which protesters could cower in fear and retreat but al-Bashir’s government did not leave any space for the people to retreat to.

If every protester returned home, he would soon be back on the street because he wouldn’t find anything in his kitchen except for a greater urge to get back to the street.

This is something that neither al-Bashir nor his ruling party understands. They cannot feel what millions of Sudanese are suffering, perhaps because of the fortunes they amassed through corruption.

The Sudanese have kept patient for a long time, way too long actually. Al-Bashir and his government have had time and time again the chance to make up for their failures but the results have always been disappointing and the people got fed up with a situation that only went from bad to worse.

Who is the bogeyman anyway?

Sudan has no foreign enemy; maybe a couple of haters but no enemy. Even the United States, which had imposed lengthy sanctions on Sudan, got what it wanted and restored relations with al-Bashir’s government.

As to those who hate Sudan, what they hate about it are its failures. Sudan is a vital area for the interests of many countries in the region and its successes or failures have a tangible effect on them. There are massive Arab investments in projects, many of which failed because of governmental mismanagement and instability.

Despite the infamous Gulf dispute, al-Bashir’s government has received support from both sides. Saudi Arabia sent over two delegates and Qatar promised financial support.

No one really wants Sudan to fall into chaos, not out of concern for its failing government but rather out of concern for the stability of a country of paramount regional importance.

While Egypt wields influence over Sudan, its relations with al-Bashir’s government are devoid of “bogeyman” and lack the incentive to incite against its authority.

I tried my best to find one enemy of Sudan but I couldn’t find any. If the media could reveal schemes and intentions, then I could not find any media source that concerned itself one day with overthrowing al-Bashir.

I did, however, find a bogeyman in Sudan, one that carries a stick and gesticulates threats at his citizens. Sometimes this bogeyman wears a military uniform and sometimes he gives orders to his security forces to crack down on the citizens and encourages them to shoot at protesters.

Throughout 30 years, the bogeyman ruled over the poor Sudanese with an iron fist. He violated the rights of his opponents and created specialised “ghost rooms” for torture so his victims would know who to be afraid of. Even his ministers are so afraid of him that when al-Bashir asks what time it is, they’d answer “It’s as you wish it to be, Mr President.” (My apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez.)

This is the real bogeyman in Sudan. He has been scary for so long that people have had enough of him. Whenever they consider their situation, all they find are poverty and hunger, so they took to the street to face al-Bashir and his bogeymen.

In 1989, the US dollar was worth 12 Sudanese pounds. As an expert in the use of “bogeymen,” al-Bashir told his people that day, in a boastful warning, that if he had not carried out his coup, the dollar would have been worth 20 pounds. Nobody in Sudan expected the disaster that happened next.

Today the dollar trades for 70-80 Sudanese pounds. If we could go back in time and put back in the zeroes that had been purposely wiped out from the figures in the Sudanese budgets, we would see the extent of the poverty that is bending people’s backs and the daunting bogeyman stirring panic in al-Bashir’s chest.

Al-Bashir’s bogeyman is himself. He is the one who will turn out to be the scary creature if he were put on trial as a soldier who constantly betrayed his word and his people.

The situation in Sudan is nobody’s handy work but al-Bashir’s. There were no reckless policies but his own and no one else caused the Sudanese to go hungry more than he has.

To hint at the fact that it is time for al-Bashir to go, the Sudanese are the ones who are asking him: “What time is it now, Mr President?” He, however, is still quite brazenly scaring them with the bogeyman.