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Is Sudan Joining Arab Spring? – OpEd

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By Alsir Sidahmed

The anti-economic austerity demonstrations witnessed by Sudan over the past few days have raised the question whether the country is finally joining its North African neighbors in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

In fact, Sudan has started that phenomenon 48 years ago when the first popular and peaceful revolution in the Arab and African world toppled the military regime of Gen. Ibrahim Abboud. Two decades later, Sudan was able to repeat the same popular uprising and managed to topple the second military regime of Ja’afar Nimeiry in 1985.

So when the Arab Spring started late 2010, the question was whether and when Sudan can join given the fact that the regime came on the barrel of a military coup, it has lived more than two decades, the longest in Sudan history, and at a time a host of political and economic problems continue to besiege it.

Having initiated two successful popular uprising that resulted in peaceful regime change, but ended up more or less where it started, if not worst, Sudanese people seem not to be very much enthusiastic to join the wave of the Arab Spring. Ironically the lack of clear leadership and programs that can usher the Egyptian, Tunisian and Libyan revolutions into a new era could be taken as a factor that pushed Sudan to take a wait and see approach.

Moreover, Sudanese opposition contributed to that end by the mere fact that leaders of opposition parties have been tested before and their track record speaks for their failures. In addition they have been around longer in the political scene more than the rulers they are trying to topple.

The serious issue and worry in the minds of the Sudanese people is the economy. To what extent a change in the regime will open up an opportunity for an improvement in that area. That is the question that boils down to the issue of the political alternative and its economic program to tackle the country’s problems.

During the past two popular revolutions in 1964 and 1985 the same issue of the political and economic alternatives were tabled, but the answer then was let us first finish with the present regime, and then people can sort out their problems in an open, democratic environment. That did not happen as the new regimes were taken over by events of governance and just the daily managing of the crises through its various forms and facets.

An added reason is that the current regime is not a purely military one like the two that preceded it. Rather, it has its grassroots political support through the National Congress Party (NCP), which inherited the National Islamic Front (NIF), which occupied the third position in the fair and free elections held back in 1986. So it is not a secular, old party like the one that used to govern Tunisia or a party created by the coup itself like the one used to govern Egypt.

More important it has its Islamic background, orientation and program. Its commitment to that program went as far as accepting the separation of South Sudan instead of compromising on its obligation to Islamic Shariah. And with the political Islam movements taking the center stage in the region, the regime in Sudan is getting a shot in the arm.

In fact its survival for more than two decades in face of tough domestic, regional and international pressures and isolations is hard to explain fully. But that does not mean in itself an insurance policy for its survival. Two factors come to the front: The first is that all the talk about an Islamic program is being put to test in various areas of politics, economy, social affairs, and external relations and so on.

The experience which is being stamped by the unique Sudanese conditions, reflect the fact that there is more need to overcome the generalities and address specific problems with specific solutions and more important along Islamic lines. The case of Sudan as such becomes a valuable lesson to other Islamic group vying power or already getting into governments.

The other and more important factor is the pressing economic conditions that may push people to the streets even if they are not sure of the alternatives.

And that is the serious challenge and worry.

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Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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