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Sudan Crisis: Difficulties Of Seeking Democracy In The Middle East And North Africa – OpEd

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Sudan developments show that democracy movements in countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East, especially in the revolutionary period, are uncertain and fragile. This revolution despite the existence of establishments that can organize public protests and help people to continue their protests because of many reasons cannot keep going on its real path. Some of these reasons are the lack of powerful parties, the absence of labor and professional syndicate, and the lack of common coherent legal establishments. Another reason that deviates this movement from its path is the dominance of military establishments which are supported by other foreign countries.

The recent instances of such revolutions can be seen in Sudan and Algeria. However, Algeria with the presence and dominance of military forces at the current time goes ahead in a different way from the Sudan revelation, but in both countries, military forces are the main pillar of the regime. In response to these disturbances, people after overthrowing “al-Bashir” and “Bouteflika” with the help of their nearest comrades and temporary governments, which were governed by military officials changed the governments. Their main goal was calm demonstrators who knew themselves the element of changes and the supporters of people movements. What happens In Sudan is the repetition of that scenario with some differences that because of some local situations and minor changes is different. (https://nationalinterest.org/feature/will-second-arab-spring-go-way-first-53357)

The Sudan military which is the main pillar of its regime with the backing of people’s support and through a coup could overthrow al-Bashir, but it did not mean that the power was transferred to people. Like the protests in Egypt, the senior officials and the main powerful individuals in government sacrificed “Husni Mubarak”, his family, and those who had a close relationship with him.

The same model is being implemented in Sudan, Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC) after the relative reduction of the people’s protests and after the overthrowing of al-Bashir used the lack of necessary situations for transferring the power to a non-military regime. Recently, the mentioned responsible officials have announced many times that an unmilitary government in the current situation leads to disturbance and disagreed with a non-military government. Especially, because previously in a recent conflict about 100 protesters were killed during these protests.

Organizing of main protesters in Sudan which led to the overthrowing of al-Bashir was accomplished by the leadership of Sudanese Professionals Associations. This association took the leadership of the revolution and (Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC)) under the leadership of “Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf” stole the revolution and announced a three months state of emergency in the country. After that Ahmed Ibn Auf declared that the country will be governed by a temporary governor, due to the continuation of the protests Awad Ibn Auf was forced to resign and an army lieutenant general designated as the current Head of State of Sudan. In spite of the continuation of protests for founding a civil establishment this demand by military forces has not been met yet.

Putting aside the lack of parties, public establishments, special professional associations, and legal incorporative entities, special professional & labor syndicates, Sudanese Professionals Association succeeded to continue the protests. However, an effective continuation that can result in gaining the power by this association is so hard and complicated that it hardly seems to be practical. One of the obstacles is the differences that exist in Sudan society. Especially, the difference between Islamic groups and seculars. In the period of al-Bashir, Islamic groups supported al-Bashir, in the current time, in order to weaken the secular group in the society, they may still be supported by military forces.

On this basis, the distinguished professor of Michigan University, “Mohammed Ayoob” believes that: “The overthrow of Mubarak, al-Bashir, and Bouteflika is more complicated. In order to overthrow them and reach our goal, we need long-standing pressure, a collection of leaders that are well-organized and leaders who are ready to willingly make materialistic sacrifices and endanger their lives. And, these are what that rarely can be seen in Sudan.”

Another obstacle that makes the achievements of protesters’ goal difficult are foreign countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt that support these military forces. What made Saudi Arabia and the UAE anxious was that after the overthrow of al-Bashir, a non-military and public government would take the leadership of the country, and the transition of the power to such government can make overall changes in Sudan policy which endangers the Saudi interest in Yemen.

The next issue that worries the above-mentioned countries is that the Sudan Revolution can inspire the people of their own countries. That’s why that recently Sudan’s TMC has announced that it is going to close the Al Jazeera’s bureau of Qatar in Khartoum.

“The closure of Al Jazeera’s bureau in Khartoum occurred the same day that Abdelfattah al-Burhan, who heads Sudan’s TMC, traveled to Mecca to participate in the Arab League summit.”

In order to provide more support of the Military Council, recently General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemeti), the deputy head of TMC visited Saudi Arabia and UAE and had some negotiations with Crown Prince Mohammed Ibn Salman. After that visit, he announced that Sudan would support Riyadh against Iran and Nasrallah, and in case of any kinds of foreign threat would not leave Riyadh alone. Stating that Sudan is completely ready to defend Saudi Arabia emphasized that Sudanese military forces still will remain in Yemen. Hemeti also expressed his appreciation because of military aids of Saudi Arabia officials.

On another hand, Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan, who is currently serving as de facto Head of State of Sudan visited Egypt and UAE and have some talks with the president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah Sisi and the Crown Prince of the UAE, Mohammed bin Zayed.

Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have pledged support to the tune of $3 billion to Sudan’s de facto government. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-21/saudi-arabia-u-a-e-to-extend-3-billion-in-aid-to-sudan)

One of the reasons for which Saudi Arabia and the UAE decide to play the main role in Sudan’s development was preventing Qatar, Turkey (the pro Muslim Brotherhood bloc) to take this role in that country. Al-Bashir was one of the supporters of Qatar who did not accept to join the campaign against that country from two years ago. This campaign is comprised of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain.

On the other hand, Turkey, too, previously achieved a deal with al-Bashir for establishing a military base that was considered a threat to the interests of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt in the Red Sea, The next issue was “Suakin” island in Sudan. In the past, this island was a part of the Ottoman Empire and now that Turkey decides to play an effective role in the Red Sea it gains considerable importance for it. In fact, after Somalia, this island due to being the nearest port to the strategic Jeddah port of Saudi Arabia has strategic importance for Ankara. From the point of view of Eygpt, the presence of Turkey, Sudan, and Qatar as the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in the borders that are near Egypt is another consequence of expanding military bases of Turkey in Africa.

Possible Scenarios

Massive massacres of protesters by Sudan security forces raised a lot of questions about the nature of the next regime.

One of the possible scenarios is that Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as Egypt, in order to stabilize the military regime act in a way that they acted previously in Egypt. However, there are some disagreements over who should hold the power (currently, Suadi Arabia supports Hemeti and UAE and Egypt support Burhan) but all of them agree upon the fact that the military forces should hold the power.

The next scenario is that Sudan would face the fate that Libia met which is the fate that is supported by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. But, Egypt is against that because it is near it and consequently will be harmed because of that.

The third scenario is the continuation of people protests, conflict with the military forces and defeating the ruling military forces of the country. However, paying attention to the considerable power of the military elite and the fact that elites have control over the power and the wealth of the country performing this scenario is difficult and complicated.

Currently, the “Declaration of Freedom and Change” comprises 20 political and cultural movement, one of the most important of which is Syndicate of Sudanese parties. This syndicate represents itself without a leader who has no hierarchy of power in the coalition.

In addition, some of the movements that signed the Declaration of Freedom and Change are the coalition of National Consensus Forces. “Sudan Call Forces”, “National Front for Change” and some other important movements.

An overview of the revolutionary groups we can conclude that the lack of the necessary coherence between these groups, the absence of a powerful leader who leads the protesters and the existence of powerful establishments like military forces in the political structure of Sudan as well as the competition of the powers like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar have led to the fact that a bright future, at least in the short term, cannot be seen for the people’s protests in Sudan.

*Javad Heiran-Nia, Ph.D student in International Relations at Islamic Azad University, is the head of the international desk of Mehr News Agency (MNA), one of the biggest news outlets in Iran. He is a nonresident fellow at the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies in Tehran.

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