Azmi Bishara: Sudan, Algeria 'on the verge of democratic transition'

Azmi Bishara: Sudan, Algeria 'on the verge of democratic transition'
The precursors of 'a second wave of the Arab Spring unfolding in Sudan and Algeria' may be more successful due to lessons learned by Arab dissidents, says the Palestinian intellectual.
4 min read
19 March, 2019
Algeria could be on the verge of real democratic transition, says Azmi Bishara [AFP]
The precursors of a second wave of the Arab Spring unfolding in countries such as Sudan and Algeria may be more successful due to lessons learned by Arab grassroots movements and dissidents, Palestinian academic and thinker Dr Azmi Bishara has said.

Arab opposition groups have learned from their mistakes and grassroots groups have understood the importance of organisation, negotiations and compromises with the ruling elites, he explained, for the sake of bringing about serious democratic change in their countries.

In a three-part interview airing on London-based Al-Araby TV this week, Dr Bishara, director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, tackled the protests in Sudan and Algeria, and the situation in Syria and Egypt. 

Algeria, he said, could be on the verge of real democratic transition especially if the popular forces and opposition parties understand how to manage the "conflict" with the government peacefully, tactically and strategically.

"There is a new generation in Algeria that rejects violence," Dr Bishara stressed, and they do not share the zeal of the independence generation nor the fears of the 1990s civil war generation.

This generation, through direct action, has become a force to be reckoned with in the country, along with the army and the ruling elites, and they will be heard, according to the Palestinian thinker.

However, the test for the Algerians, he said, will lie in the protesters' ability to produce leaders who can work with traditional opposition leaders, to avoid the mistakes seen during the Arab Spring in countries such as Egypt and Syria.

And regarding foreign intervention, Dr Bishara said "the best thing [French President] Emmanuel Macron can do about Algeria is to stay quiet" given his suspicious record on human rights and France's history in its former colonies.
The best thing Emmanuel Macron can do about Algeria is to stay quiet
On Sudan

For its part, Sudan is still at the beginning of the road to change, according to Dr Bishara, as change there is difficult to achieve without stronger unity among the major opposition forces. There is also a profound lack of trust between ordinary people and the regime, as regards its intentions and willingness to negotiate and compromise for the sake of democratic transition.

In this regard, Dr Bishara said the declared state of emergency by the regime was not a good sign, let alone shooting at protesters, mass detentions and the shoring up the military's power inside the regime at the expense of ruling party bureaucrats.

One possible way out of the crisis in Sudan, according to Dr Bishara, is a government bringing together the ruling party and the opposition, followed by setting out a date for President Omar al-Bashir to step down with guarantees from the army for a democratic transition.

"International forces should offer guarantees to al-Bashir, for example of immunity," as part of the solution, he added.

"There are cases where it is necessary to bargain with the regime... this applies to Sudan which is ready to accept this rule, with its students, opposition parties, and some factions of the ruling party and elites."

Speak Arabic? Watch the full interview here [al-Araby TV]

The 'old' Arab Spring countries

In Syria, Dr Bishara said the regime of Bashar al-Assad had not won a "victory", because the cost has been destroying Syria and surrendering its sovereignty to Russia, Iran and various militias.

While the Syrian people have not been liberated, he said, "the Syrian human has been truly liberated". 

And on Egypt, Dr Bishara said the current oppression of the Sisi regime could not last, and urged the opposition to learn from its mistakes and agree a new political agenda.

"The stability and security card is no longer convincing as a price for Egyptians for this much repression... not to mention the comical aspect of the regime and Sisi's intelligence... it is a scandal that a nation as great as Egypt is ruled by a person like him."

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