The salvation of Sudan

Mostafa Ahmady
Tuesday 19 Jul 2022

The military and civilian authorities in Sudan must work together to save the country from disaster in line with the expectations of the Sudanese people, writes Mostafa Ahmady


The day-to-day protests taking place in Sudan foreshadow what threatens to be an inevitable end: the collapse of the state.

The fact that the protesters and those inciting and heavily financing them to remain in the streets have failed to understand is that the thousand days of robust protests, violent at a certain point, could not have forced an end to the 30-year rule of former Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir unless the military had intervened to remove him.

Acting against the Sudanese military today to exclude them completely from the political scene in Sudan means that a country divided by endless ethnic troubles and violent incidents will continue to slide down a slippery slope in a lose-lose recipe to say the least.

The foreign intervention in Sudan, disguised under bright slogans such as establishing a democracy, again fails to read the bigger picture. A country like Sudan cannot move overnight from a ruthless dictatorial regime like that of Al-Bashir to a promising democratic system in the way the West orders it to. Even the Western democracies that are now boasting of themselves as beacons of liberty have had to take this transformation slowly. They could not have become the kind of states they are today save by assimilating different experiences and learning many lessons to reach a form of democracy adapted to their peoples.

The West needs to be reminded that Germany, for example, once fell under the rule of an insane dictator who cost the world some 85 million deaths and ruled the country for 11 years in a period that will be remembered as the Dark Ages of Europe. Similarly, impoverished peasants were murdered in their thousands in cold blood in front of the palace of Czar Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russia, just for demanding bread.

Even in the present time, in the US, a country that prides itself for “equality” for all under the law, some are being killed because of their skin colour. Why should Sudan, or, in the broader sense, any other country, be an exception? Why should not the Sudanese be allowed to pass through their difficult transformation and reach a formula that is apt for them?

Above all, why is it that the West, or its messenger Volker Perthes, the chief of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), thinks that the young people who are gathering daily in the streets of Sudan, and did so even prior to the military takeover on 25 October 2021, represent every segment of the Sudanese population, with all due respect to their aspirations? The silent majority in Sudan may not be satisfied at seeing their nation edging every day closer to becoming a failed state. Why do their voices not matter?

Sudan is under huge pressure, whether from Israel, which wants a hasty normalisation deal, or from some of the Arab parties that are working to promote their leverage and are taking advantage of the absence of a stable and effective government in the country and are banking on the endless divisions even within the civilian forces.

Needless to say, the Ethiopian Amharas want to annex Sudanese territory in favour of their farmers who for decades, under the sight of former president Al-Bashir, have been cultivating Sudanese land and exporting the produce in return for massive earnings for the Amhara region. If these and other issues like Russia’s endless quest for a base to service its nuclear warships in Port Sudan on the strategically important Red Sea do not constitute imminent dangers for Sudan, what are they in the eyes of the West?

Now that the military have decided not to take part in the Sudanese national dialogue enforced by UNITAMS and co-sponsored by the ineffective African Union (AU) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) led by former Ethiopian minister of foreign affairs Workneh Gebeyehu, the ball is indeed in the court of the civilian forces to reach a consensus on the formation of a transitional civilian-led government.

The aim should then be preparing for elections and ending this chaotic era that is unprecedented in the modern history of Sudan.

But even this looks like a dream that is far from being realised. The civilian forces, some heavily supported by foreign actors within Sudan, never seem to be in agreement over fundamental issues regarding the next step in the country. They have been trading accusations since the day after the removal of Al-Bashir, with some of them acting as the sole voice of the people, though democratically speaking they have received no official popular mandate to do the job.

Cracks within the civilian forces have seen the dissolution of the once major opposition bloc the Forces of Freedom and Change into two entities: one that holds that partnership with the military is the safeguard against the collapse of the country, codenamed the “National Accord,” and the second that rejects any form of agreement with the military, called the “Central Council.”

Fiddling while Rome burns, these two “warring” factions have turned a deaf ear to the cries of the average Sudanese. A close look at the official economic data makes things clear. The inflation rate now stands at a record 192 per cent, though this is a decrease from the 220 per cent in April this year. The unemployment rate has hit 26.8 per cent, the highest in the Arab world. Regrettably, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has been sounding the alarm that 15 million people in Sudan, one third of the total population of 45 million, are now facing acute food insecurity. The WFP expects that by September this year, 40 per cent of Sudan’s population may slip into food insecurity.

But the military and civilian forces remain the two pillars of the Sudanese community. The Sudanese military may have committed mistakes in handling the transitional period, particularly the chain of events that led to the 25 October 2021 military takeover. But a continued blame game will not salvage the nation. None can surf in dangerous waters alone. The Sudanese people expect the military and civilians to deliver.

For this to happen, engagement in future talks in good faith is necessary. The only way forward for the Sudanese parties is to understand that they hold the key to the future and not the West and not the foreign powers. After all, if their country hits rock bottom, they will be left with nothing to quarrel over.  


The writer is a former press attaché in Ethiopia and an expert on African and international affairs.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 July, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

Short link: