If there is such a thing as “too much democracy”, it could help us understand the political drama that has unfolded in Sudan since the overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
With so many groups wanting a voice in the country’s future, the search for consensus is again proving dangerously elusive.
Bashir was overthrown by the military, but only after weeks of mass protests. At the time, a free coalition of groups – the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) – came to represent the protesters, united by one goal: “Yasgut Bass”.
This is the Sudanese version of the Arab Spring slogan: “The people want the fall of the regime”. Basically, the word “low”, which in Arabic means “only”, underscored the limits of their consensus: they just wanted to overthrow the Bashir-led regime for nearly three decades.
As the events of the past couple of years have shown, there was little consensus on how to move forward afterwards.
A power-sharing agreement was agreed between the military and the FFC, launching the Sovereign Council which is expected to rule the country for another year, with the aim of holding elections and moving into civilian rule.
A new political manifesto was launched at a recent conference by the FFC to reconfirm the original objectives of the uprising, but also to call for greater participation of political parties in the decision-making process of the interim government.
But beyond the demonstration of unity lurked the specter of a growing division among former allies. Basically, it was reported that not all delegates signed the new document – two blocs were formed, both claiming to be the FFC. Instead of healing the divisions, the conference exposed them.
Furthermore, there are other civilian political groups opposed to the power-sharing agreement. Not to mention the old ruling party – the National Congress – whose cadres are widely believed to be rooted in state institutions, first of all the armed forces and security services.
Reflecting the sense of a country in crisis, Abdalla Hamdok, the civilian prime minister of the interim government overseeing the gradual economic reforms, aired last Friday.
He called for unity and an end to the polarization between the various political parties, which, he said, represent a serious threat to the transition to democracy.
The divisions seem to fit a pattern in modern Sudanese history, according to writer and historian Richard Cockett.
In his book Sudan: The Failure and Division of an African State, he identified a fundamental flaw in the country’s political class since independence in 1956 – that “heated political competition has come at a price – the self-destruction of democracy”.
In other words, the tendency towards fragmentation and fragmentation has been the Achilles heel of Sudanese politics. Time after time, the inability to find a compromise and build consensus has paved the way for military intervention to organize coups under the pretext of saving the country from the chaos inflicted on it by politicians.
Alarmingly, Mr. Hamdok, who survived an assassination attempt 19 months ago, noted that the divisions were not only within the civilian camp, but also within the military.
Signs of this have been shown in recent months, leading up to demonstrations on Saturday calling on the military to fire the civil administration and take responsibility for the transition.
There is a widespread belief that as the date approaches for the handover of the Sovereignty Council presidency to a civilian leader, the military is looking for a pretext or creating new conditions on the ground to justify withdrawing from this commitment.
Hence the suspicion that his fingers are behind much of the recent riots – a coup attempt, a blockade of the main eastern port – with cartoonists amusing themselves by suggesting that the revolution is about to be stolen.
– BLACKBOY انى (@blackboy) 11 October 2021
Key figures in the military have repeatedly made public their criticisms of civilian politicians, while arguing that they are not interested in power per se, but only desire stability and prosperity for Sudan. This is what the military always says.
Busted in protesters
Among these stands out the voice of the controversial deputy of the Sovereign Council, Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagolo.
He rose to prominence as the leader of the infamous Janjaweed militia accused of abuse during the 2003 Darfur conflict. His troops have now been renamed the Rapid Response Force and their relationship with regular army forces remains in question.
Speaking recently at a rally, he said that politicians were only interested in “chairs” or positions of power, but that soldiers like him cared more about the people and the nation as a whole.
Threateningly he added that while politicians could threaten street protests, the military had their “own road”.
At just the right moment, pro-army protesters were brought to the capital, Khartoum last week. They called for a new government and asked the army to take charge of the transition period.
But the picture is complex. Not all those who demonstrated on Saturday are supporters of the military government.
There are also those who are not happy with what they say is a clique of the original FFC that has barred other groups from being part of the transition process. This has fueled speculation that it is all a race for positions and personal interests.
Some believe the military is taking a cue from their Egyptian counterparts when they used real popular discontent over the course of the revolution in 2013 to regain control of the country and thwart the democratic transition.
Other events are planned on Saturday. This time by groups opposed to the military and their supporters, who had camped outside the Republican Palace. The stage is set for a serious confrontation, which could spiral out of control.
The power-sharing agreement of 2019, hailed as unprecedented and which saved the country from the risk of protracted conflict, is coming under increasing pressure from all sides: the military and rival political parties.
Commenting on the impasse, regional expert Alex de Waal recently said it is naive to believe that Sudan – which has never managed to agree on a common vision for its own identity or political system for the past 60 years – would have achieved some sort of soon unity.
The best that could be hoped for now, he suggested, was for the Sudanese to agree to disagree with words and not with deeds – and continue the talks to avoid violence.
More information on post-Bashir Sudan:
- VOICES: ‘The revolution is in the curriculum’
- BACKGROUND: A Quick Guide to Sudan
- DARFUR: Families who still run to save their lives
Read More about World News here.
This Article is Sourced from BBC News. You can check the original article here: Source