Necessary steps urged to prevent Sudan from a late-coming Arab Spring

Wednesday, 2019-04-17 15:57:14
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Sudanese demonstrators protest outside the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan April 14, 2019. (Reuters)
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NDO – Sudan has fallen into a serious political crisis since President Omar al-Bashir was ousted. Worried about the risk of increased uncertainties in Sudan threatening regional security, the African Union (AU) and the international community have called on the parties concerned to hold dialogue to avoid escalating tensions. There are warnings of an “Arab Spring” coming later in Sudan, unless measures are taken to promptly stabilise the situation in this East African nation.

The Sudan situation became tense after successive protests from the end of 2018, as the local people protested the sharp rise in food prices and showed their discontent with the government’s weak economic policies. Tensions were escalated to new heights after the army arrested President al-Bashir and more than 100 officials under his administration. After nearly 30 years in power, President al-Bashir was overthrown; the Sudanese troops have stood up to establish the Transitional Military Council (TMC) to run the country while waiting for the establishment and transfer of power to a civilian government over an estimated period of two years.

However, the deposition of President al-Bashir and TMC’s pledges to transfer power to a civilian government have proved not be enough to ease the anger of the people. The wave of protests continued in the capital city of Khartoum. The sit-in demonstration of thousands of people passed its tenth consecutive day in front of the headquarters of Sudan’s Defence Ministry. The people continued to demand a wide range of claims to be satisfied, including dissolving the TMC and replacing it with a civilian council. Under pressure from street demonstrations, the head of the TMC, General Abdul Fatah al-Burhan, was forced to pledge to establish a civilian government, but he did not give any specific schedule. The people’s discontent and the “heat” from protests are in danger of escalating into violent conflict.

The developments in Sudan are worrying countries in the region, because if left uncontrolled, political uncertainties may sweep the East African nation into a whirlwind of conflict as that which struck Egypt, Libya and Tunisia in the “tornado” of the Arab Spring in 2011. The AU, made up of 55 member states, strongly condemned the “coup” in Sudan, stressing that the army-led transitional government is completely contrary to the aspirations of the Sudanese people. The AU’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) clearly stated that if the military government in Sudan does not transfer power to a civilian government within 15 days, the AU will suspend “Sudan’s involvement in all AU activities until the country restores its constitutional order”. In its history, the AU once suspended the membership of Egypt and the Republic of Central Africa after coups in these two countries in 2013. However, both countries have already reclaimed their membership status after stabilising their domestic situation.

In the latest move to remove stalemate, Lieutenant General Jalal al-Deen al-Sheikh, a member of the TMC, met Ethiopia’s prime minister in Addis Ababa, where the AU is based, and said that Sudan is already in the process of choosing a prime minister for a civilian government, hailing this as a path towards peace for the country. The head of TMC, General Abdul Fatah al-Burhan, made phone calls with the kings of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the Presidents of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and South Sudan, and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, aiming to call for support for TMC in this “sensitive historical period”. The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called on the international community to support TMC in the process towards “democratic transfer” in the country, in the context of the United States, the European Union (EU) and many countries urging for a peaceful transitional process that meets the aspirations of the Sudanese people.

Although the army currently running Sudan has pledged to quickly transfer power to a civilian government, the majority of Sudanese people don’t really believe in this promise after what’s happened in the country. The current tensions in Sudan are “small unstable sparks” risking being blown up into a massive fire if the factions refuse to give in and set aside disagreements to gain a common voice. The lessons from the protests overthrowing the governments that swept the North African countries into a spiral of conflict and uncertainties in 2011 are still hot. The international and regional community calls on factions in Sudan to take necessary steps to reconcile the nation and avoid confrontation, thus preventing the East African nation from following the same path of doom of a number of North African countries that experienced a tragic Arab Spring with many consequences.