A new spring for Africa’s dictatorships

Echoes of the Arab Spring in Sudan
Last week, Sundanese dictator Omar al-Bashir became “the second north African leader forced from office this month in the face of mass protests, following Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika”, report Okech Francis and Mohammed Alamin for Bloomberg. These departures “stirred echoes of the Arab Spring uprisings earlier this decade”. The protesters have since won further concessions from the military council that has taken over, including the removal of former defence minister Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf as head of the council. There are now demands for “a civilian handover”, as well as for political and media freedoms.

There is “understandable euphoria” on the streets of Khartoum, says the FT, but “the experience of countries that went through the Arab Spring suggests that severe dangers lie ahead”. One problem is that over the past 30 years “the Sudanese state has been geared to one thing: keeping Bashir and his cronies in power”. Now, with the Bashir regime gone, “the concern is there is nothing credible or coherent enough to replace it”. People worry that the military is merely “conducting an elaborate piece of political theatre to give the appearance of… change”.
Still, Sudan’s generals have a vulnerability, say George Clooney and John Prendergast in The Washington Post. Bashir’s “disastrous” policies have “left the country in crushing debt and in need of aid and debt relief”. Non-humanitarian aid should be suspended until civilian rule is in place. In the meantime, the US should keep Sudan on its list of states that sponsor terrorism. If there is to be “real change”, “strong international action” will be needed.

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