From Egypt to Sudan: Freedom is not a military takeover

From Egypt to Sudan: Freedom is not a military takeover
Comment: Preventing a military takeover in Sudan is paramount. Egypt's recent past serves as a case in point, writes Sam Fouad.
5 min read
15 Apr, 2019
In the past, Egypt's Sisi voiced his support for ousted Sudanese president, Bashir [Anadolu]
After four months of protest by the Sudanese people, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was unseated last week as the president of Sudan.

Bashir became president of Sudan in 1989 when he led a coup that ousted a democratically elected government. In 2009, he became the first sitting president to be indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for directing mass killing, rape and pillage against civilians in Darfur.

But as Bashir fell, Defense Minister Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf was the one to announce the news on Sudanese state television. He declared that a transitional council would lead the country for two years, but the Sudanese people were quick to reject the prospect of military rule.

Sara Abdelgalil of the Sudanese Professionals Association 
stated, "this is a recycled coup which will not be welcomed at all", and declared that Ibn Auf's statement was "far from the expectations of the people of Sudan… which is the handover of power peacefully from the regime, unconditionally, and a civil transitional government."

Before the protests in Sudan gained international coverage, the Sudanese Professionals Association had been leading the demonstrations, originally over deteriorating living conditions in the country.

Two days after Bashir stepped down and Ibn Auf declared a transitional military council, Sudan's intelligence chief, Salah Abdallah Gosh, also stepped down as massive demonstrations continued outside the country's military headquarters.

Sudanese protesters continued their anti-regime sit-in outside the military headquarters on Monday [Getty]

Gosh's departure marked another victory for the protestors who have been calling for his agency, the National Intelligence and Security Service, to be dismantled. Under Gosh, this agency stands accused of torture and off-site prisons where disappearances were common.

Defense Minister Ibn Auf was next to fall, and announced
his own resignation on state television shortly thereafter, while naming his successor, and stating that he was stepping down "in order to ensure the cohesion of the security system, and the armed forces in particular, from cracks and strife".

But as top military and intelligence officials continue to step down in the face of popular protest, the Sudanese Professionals Association has made it clear that they will not give up until the military spearheads an immediate transfer of power to a civilian government.

The Sudanese are acutely aware of how easily their country could slide back into what it was under Bashir

While Ibn Auf's successor, Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan, has announced the restructuring of state institutions, the end of a night curfew and the release of political prisoners, demonstrators are adamant that every aspect of the current transitional military council be handed over to a civilian government.

Given the wholesale crushing of the revolutionary, democratic sentiment that has taken place in neighbouring Egypt since Sisi took power in 2013, Sudanese protesters would be wise to continue insisting the military hand power over to a civilian government.

Back in 2013, then chief of the armed forces, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, announced that he had suspended the constitution and would nominate an interim president. He had also announced presidential and parliamentary elections, along with a transitional cabinet. Perhaps aware of the events in Egypt, and realizing the parallels between that situation and their own, Sudanese protestors too, fear that the military will cling to power or select one of its own to succeed Bashir.

The series of events that has transpired since Bashir's ouster only a few days ago has been eerily similar what happened between the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, and the arrival of al-Sisi.

While protesters in Sudan seem to acknowledge this, and continue to demand a civilian government, Burhan's seemingly conciliatory tone up to this point seems to indicate that there may be an attempt by the Sudanese military to meet the protesters' demands.

Read more: Sudan government calls on international community to support military council for 'democratic transition'

On Saturday, organisers demanded the
formation of a four-year civilian government under the protection of the military. On Sunday, the military council called for a consensus agreement to identify somebody to lead the government. However, since this announcement, it has been made clear that the transitional military council plans on naming a civilian prime minister and cabinet, but not a president.

Another parallel worth noting is the announced support for the military council by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia has said it calls on all Sudanese "to give priority to the national interest" of their country while the UAE said it
welcomed the swearing-in of General Burhan as head of the military council. Back in 2013, Saudi Arabia was also the foremost supporter of Egypt's military rulers, stating that "the kingdom stands with Egypt and against all those who try to interfere with its domestic affairs."

While it is yet to be determined how the transition will progress, events so far have moved quickly, and the Sudanese are acutely aware of how easily their country could slide back into what it was under Bashir.

The struggle for freedom for Sudan is far from over, and so far there are worrying signs that military rule may take hold, as it did in Egypt in 2013.

If the international community wants to ensure that Sudan does not remain under military rule for the foreseeable future, it should assist the Sudanese people in a way that does rely on military intervention.

Sudanese protestors too, fear that the military will cling to power or select one of its own to succeed Bashir

Similar circimstances have proven notoriously difficult to navigate in recent years: Military intervention led Libya down a corrosive path, and allowing military rule to take unfettered control in Egypt has destroyed civil liberties.

Whatever the future brings for Sudan, Egypt's recent past must serve as a case in point. And while the protesters in Sudan seem to recognize these parallels, it remains to be seen if other countries will have the foresight to do the same.

Sam Fouad is a political consultant and a global affairs analyst based in Washington, DC.

Follow him on Twitter: @_saf155

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.