Hazem Saghieh

Revolutions against Coups

Besides their population of 40 to 42 million people, Sudan and Algeria have nothing much in common. Even their “shared” language seems less common when the two sides decide to converse.

One country is rich in oil and gas and the other is poor in this area despite its massive natural resources. Sudan has been exporting oil since 1999, but this does not make it an oil country. Algeria gained its independence from France after an epic war on which future leaders based their rule. The Sudanese people gained their independence from the British without any epics.

The independent Algeria was founded by a single military figure, Houari Boumediene, who cemented its regime and controlled its society. The independent Sudan was built by three military figures, who took turns in “disciplining” it: Ibrahim Abboud, Gaafar Nimeiry and Omar al-Bashir. Because they were three and due to the gaps between their years in power, the result was weaker and less cohesive than Algeria.

Moreover, Algeria maintained its policies, despite some shakeups, a feat that was never accomplished by Sudan. In Kahrtoum, each of the above-mentioned rulers adopted contradictory policies on the internal and foreign scenes. Sudan only knew two periods of democracy in which political parties, unions and the press flourished. The Algeria of the “one million martyrs” did not.

The common factors shared between Algeria and Sudan may not be as obvious as their differences. They both were subject to authorities that turned war into a regime. This was demonstrated in the bitter war in the 1990s in Algeria and Sudan’s war in Darfur in the east and the war in the south until 2011.

A war regime always extends abroad in various forms. Algeria found the western Sahara conflict as a necessary condition for the stability of its regime. This prompted its war with Morocco in 1976. Sudan, for its part, took in Ousama bin Laden and sponsored various foreign terrorists. All these issues were summed up in Bashir himself, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court.

The targeting of society, by usurping its freedoms and compounding economic problems, has, however, proven to have more longevity than a regime of war. This was demonstrated in the Algerian regime’s weakened ability to carry out bribes through oil and gas revenues. Since the 1980s, the drop in prices has led to a weakened Algerian economy, which doubled unemployment and poverty. In Sudan, a tenth of the population lives in poverty.

The revolts witnessed in recent days have revealed an additional common factor between the peoples of Algeria and Sudan: An admirable civilian insistence to oust the ruling regimes, which has also learned the lessons of the Arab Spring revolts. The youths in both countries realized that they had no option but to choose change after the ruling regimes lost their grip on the sources of information.

The World Bank recently predicted that should the current demographic trends in the Middle East and North Africa regions continue as they are now, by 2050 they will need to create 300 million job opportunities. Once they are given their freedoms, the youths will be able to determine their future.

It may be too soon to tell whether the militaries in Algeria and Sudan would be able to translate their pledges into action, but it is certain that their intentions, which are chased by the peoples in both countries, are the same.

The greatest common factor between Algeria, Sudan and other Arab countries is that their revolts took place against coups, meaning they were against the military and security forces taking over politics and a bite out of society and the future. It is true that the revolts targeted non-coupist regimes and that the regime in Algeria was not produced by a military putsch, but it is true that the regimes adopted, in one way or another, a coup against the will of the people. These regimes are now facing a crisis because they can no longer resort to excuses about the fate of their respective countries.

This places the military regimes in Algeria and Sudan in front of two inescapable choices: Either allow the military to withdraw from political affairs or insist on remaining in power and be confronted with popular resistance, which would in turn make it impossible for a nation to be built.