World, Africa

Sudanese scholar explains al-Bashir’s ouster

Elsadig Elsheikh discusses rise and fall of ousted Sudanese leader across 30 years

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 17.04.2019
Sudanese scholar explains al-Bashir’s ouster Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir

ISTANBUL

The ouster of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's longtime president, in a military coup following months of popular protests, could have two possible implications, a Sudanese-American scholar has said.

“Sudan under Omar al-Bashir entered a new alliance for the greater Middle East, which is an alliance of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the U.A.E., with a prospect of normalization of relationship with the state of Israel,” Elsadig Elsheikh, an expert on Islamophobia and migration at the University of California-Berkeley, told Anadolu Agency in an interview.

Elsadig Elsheikh is an expert on Islamophobia and migration at the University of California-Berkeley, U.S.

The North African nation is being run by an interim military council for a transitional period of two years, following last week's coup which ousted al-Bashir, who had ruled Sudan since 1989.

“Second, any democratization of Sudan will have an impact on the neighboring countries particularly Egypt,” Elsheikh said on the sidelines of a conference in Istanbul.

Egypt has been under military rule after the first democratically elected government was toppled in 2013 by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is ruling the country since.

He went on to say that the fall of al-Bashir could “really jeopardize the war in Yemen” led by Saudi Arabia and its allies.

“Because Sudanese regime would provide foot soldiers for the Iraqi-Saudi Arabia led coalition war in Yemen

“Of course, with the regime fall, that support will be completely seized,” Elsheikh said.

Rise of al-Bashir

Al-Bashir came to power through a military coup three decades ago.

“[It] was orchestrated [partly] by Dr Hassan Turabi movement -- the Muslim Brotherhood of Sudan and it used to be called the National Islamic Front (NIF),” he said.

“However, after 10 years, Turabi and Bashir had struggle over power and they went their own ways.”

During his rule, South Sudan was allowed to vote in a referendum to choose if it wanted to stay with or secede from the country.

“So from 2005 to 2011, preparations were made and referendum was conducted; almost 98% of Southern Sudanese decided to go their way.”

“[However,] big surprise to everybody, including myself, was that al-Bashir kept his word and let them (people of South Sudan) go,” he added.

Elsheikh said that division of Sudan led to loss of “almost 70% of the oil revenue along with one-third of the country’s territory”.

“So things became harder and the regime itself started to obey the neo-liberal global order.

“More and more he got cornered, more and more he created security state in Sudan. So, he had to get out of that corner and in doing that he did the unthinkable: he gave up the whole regime that is supposed to be… anti-American and all that.”

Embracing United States

Speaking about how al-Bashir embraced the U.S. following 9/11, Elsheikh said he “gave entire dossiers of all the foreign Mujahideen [militants] from Afghanistan who ran to Sudan".

Many Mujahideen including slain Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden sought refuge in Sudan after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, he added.

"That is the type of pragmatism he used. And that put him at odds with everybody, like he did not have principles in terms of allies. And today, we discover that he even extended his relationship with the state of Israel,” he added.

“He [al-Bashir] escalated oppression on people of Sudan especially those living in periphery and Darfur....He inflicted austerity measures on Sudanese people beyond belief that hurt mostly poor and youth because there were no jobs etc etc,” he said.

This resulted in mass demonstrations.

“We had huge mass demonstrations like today in 2013 but response was extreme brutality. So he had been able to put it down but people never stopped.

“Now, in December 2018, a point of no-return had reached. Al-Bashir removed all the subsidies on the services especially on bread and the petroleum so life became almost unbearable for everybody,” he said.

“Again, the popular uprising was meted out with killings and arrests. They killed around 30 people and arrested 1,000 people."

"However," Elsheikh said, “this time it was different. Not like the Arab spring, the current Sudanese uprising did not start from the capital but from the peripheries and then moved to the capital.”

"So, he was forced to resign but he deputed his own defense minister [General Awad Ibn Auf] to be the caretaker guy to support and spare him from trial and going to International Criminal court (ICC).

“But really, here we have to applaud people of Sudan in terms of their understanding that they knew this is just changing faces and not changing regime,” Elsheikh observed.

Innovative Sudanese slogans

He touched upon the slogans which Sudanese people raised during mass protests including “peaceful, peaceful… for freedom, peace and justice”.

“They did not say democracy directly, but sought justice first,” Elsheikh explained. “And then second slogan was ‘fall, that is all’.”

“When they faced second general Awad Ibn Auf [he stepped down since then], there was third slogan: “Fall, that is all, again!”

He said that people are demanding structural changes in the system.

“The people are saying that army could participate in council partly, however, it should be run by a civilian.

“This is a long process… thirty years of absence of these institutions and you can’t build them in a year."

He identified four major demands of Sudanese people: ending civil war or hostility against anybody; re-establish the law and institution of law; immediate economic relief; and national program for rewriting the Sudanese constitution.

“And after this, hold the elections,” he added.

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