A member of Sudan's alliance of opposition and protest groups wears the national flag as he chants slogans outside Sudan's Central Bank during the second day of the civil disobedience campaign.
It is not a mere coincidence that the recent happenings in Sudan unquestionably resembles the 2011 Egypt crisis.
On June 3, Sudan security forces opened fire at sit-in protesters killing nearly 100. They were demanding a democratic setup in Sudan following the removal of its long-serving autocratic President Omar al-Bashir. Later, through a statement read on national television, the Transitional Military Council led by Lt. General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan elucidated that the operation solely targeted ‘trouble makers and criminals’.
Remarkably, the crackdown by the military on the massive movement made democracy bear a stunning resemblance to the Egyptian revolution in 2011.
For instance, the August 2013 Rabba massacre, in which more than 800 people were killed, led to mass protests which forced Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak, out of power.
However, the architect of the coup responsible for dethroning the dictator, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, went on to declare himself the president instead. Following Mubarak’s expulsion, a poorly carried transition from monocracy to democracy deviated Egypt’s revolutionaries. As they were clueless about the transition, the mix-up paved the way for a counter-revolutionary coup in Cairo.
Today, Abdel el-Sisi’s regime is more violent and repressive than the one they toppled 7 years ago. These events are worrying, especially after witnessing the similarities they carry.
In both Sudan and Egypt, youth and the working class along with the opposition parties banded together to oppose the brutal authoritarian regime. As did the army generals intervened to dethrone the ruling dictators, only to find themselves in control later. All this during the most crucial period of the movement- transition to democracy.
The sole reason for an uprising to succeed is the power of people in the streets. During late 2012, the secular wing of Egypt’s revolutionary union fell out from the Islamist wing aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. Both groups, in the end, remained more committed to their own specific political aspirations and interests. The coalitions that have taken to the streets in Sudan are just as diverse as Egypt’s, a weakness Sudan’s military benefits from.
No Love for Democracy
During the Egyptian revolution, the regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates strongly opposed the Muslim Brotherhood and, in a broader context, democracy. They feared that such uprisings could inspire mutiny in their own rule and destabilise their control. Just days after Bashir resigned, Saudi Arabia pledged $3 billion in aid to Sudan’s TMC after meeting Mohamed Dagalo. The US, however, despite being the 'promoter of democracy’, finds itself in a tricky spot, thanks to Saudi’s oil money and its growing arms market.
Egypt’s failed democratic experiment provides key lessons. Changing the entire system of governance while also opposing a powerful and resourceful regime can be unnerving. The next few months will be crucial for not just the people of Sudan but also the whole of Africa.
As Sudan takes its first daring steps toward democracy, they must keep their eyes open as the game may not be all over yet.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)