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Dangerous Wagers in Sudan

Dangerous Wagers in Sudan

Wednesday, 27 October, 2021 - 17:15
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.

“Al-Burhan has written his end with his own two hands… The power of the masses will uproot Burhan and his Council and leave them trampled and destroyed.”

This statement is attributed to the Sudanese Professionals Association, the group of trade unions leading the confrontation in Sudan. It reflects the tension in Khartoum between the two sides to the conflict on the division of power and control between the military and civilians, as well as among civil forces and parties themselves.

Today, Sudan stands at a crossroads: a tunnel of bloodshed or a path of salvation.

If the prospects were to end peacefully either way and satisfy most of the Sudanese people, this would be a natural crisis amid the transition from the rule of Omar al-Bashir and extremist nationalist Islamists, which drove Sudan to destruction and international isolation and divided the country.

It is only natural that the Sudanese disagree on questions such as who, how, and where to, given the country’s long legacy of bloody misfortunes.

A quick look at the short period that followed Bashir’s ouster reveals that internal and external accomplishments have exceeded expectations: rapid progress was achieved in dealing with international sanctions, huge debts, and inherited wars.

On the other hand, the transitional political process was not as successful, for a number of reasons: the plurality of positions and internal forces, foreign interference, the military’s non-fulfillment of the expectations set by civilian forces and its doubts about the identity and affiliations of some of these mysterious forces.

Between the two paths, the forceful imposition of a political solution by the Sudanese street may lead the country to chaos, and the setback of the following days will usher long years of military rule, not the contrary.

The reason for the tighter control and the postponement of the transition to a civilian rule is that the powerful Sudanese military is largely united behind its command and capable of imposing its presence on the ground.

Eventually, regional forces will agree to deal with the strongest entity in Khartoum that can achieve stability, regardless of the political quarrels in the capital. After all, the Arab region is in a dangerous state of turmoil, and Sudan’s slip into chaos will threaten neighboring countries and the interests of major states.

The opposition’s wager that the remaining civil forces will join its movement may not be accurate. In this case, the division of the civil society will not only give the military command the legitimacy it needs, but also marginalize opposition forces.

The third wager considering the protesting forces to represent the demands of the Sudanese street may also not last should the military command manage to improve living and security conditions under an alternative civil authority, like what happened in Egypt. Following the alienation of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo, security and economic conditions improved, despite the country remaining on security alert.

The fourth wager on foreign interference is the clearest, what with statements flooding in from Washington, European capitals, and the UN.

However, the blood in Afghanistan has not even dried yet. The country is a living example that international obligations are untrustworthy and have lost their credibility. Yemen is another proof of international failure. International pressures were exerted to remove President Ali Abdullah Saleh and form a transitional civilian government ahead of drafting a constitution in cooperation with the UN. But no sooner had Houthi militants taken over Sanaa than the international position backed down on all its promises. Ever since, Yemen has been mired in a never-ending cycle of infighting, chaos, and misery.

The Sudanese must seek a middle ground that guarantees stability to all and generates a strong authority and civilian rule that is accepted by most Sudanese people.

There are several regional and international foreign powers that are willing to create turmoil in Sudan as an extension of the chaos in Libya and Yemen. It is evident that the amplification of the crisis and the calls for disobedience and disorder are not all as innocent as they seem, but in no way does this mean that the rights of civil forces be squashed and their demands be marginalized -- so long as they do not lead the country down a path of chaos and war.

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