Sudan: A State of Regime Crumbling

“The challenge of modernity is to live without illusions and without becoming disillusioned.”  – Antonio Gramsci

In just one month, the Sudanese Government announced two coup attempts. The first attempt in November 2012 was led by senior figures of the regime in the armed forces and security services – whom were always perceived as the regime protectors since the coup that brought the current regime to power in 1989.

The crackdowns in the government was a recognized phenomenon in the previous few months. For example, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Karti was openly critical of the Minister of Defense after the air strike on al-Yarmouk military factory in Khartoum, which Israel was accused of orchestrating.

Minister of Social Welfare Amira al-Fadil criticized the Minister of Finance while presenting the 2013 budget to parliament, raising the question of whether this budget passed through the cabinet in the first place. Moreover in November 2012, serious controversy surfaced during the last General Assembly of the Sudanese Islamic movement – which is the ideological womb of the ruling National Congress Party.

The first coup attempt was believed to be led by General Salah Gosh, the previous leader of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). Gosh is also recognized as the one behind the huge expansion of the work and the structure of the NISS, which led to similar expansions on its expenditure, power, and of course legislation of many of its frequent violations.

Since the 1989 coup, Gosh worked for NISS and participated in arresting and torturing many of the political figures and activists including Sadiq al-Mahdi, the last democratically elected prime minister. He was removed from power by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in April 2011 after speculations of his ambition to seize power.

Col. Mohammed Ibrahim, who is a radical officer within the Special Forces of Sudanese Arm Forces, was the second man in Gosh’s coup. He is a very a popular figure among the younger generation of Islamists. Ibrahim was said to be the leader of the Special Forces in Darfur and Port-Sudan city in the east and the leader of many operations during the civil war with the south, and responsible for perpetrating many crimes. The previous leader of Sudanese-Chadian joint forces, Fatah Alraheem Abdullah Suleiman, has also been arrested for his participation in the unsuccessful coup.

This group of second generation Islamists call themselves the Saee’hoon (the fasting fighters or jihadists). Sometimes they advocate revitalizing a Shariah-based pan-Islamic movement inspired by Sudanese leader Hassan al-Turabi. In other instances they present themselves as radical reformers who are angry at regime mismanagement, corruption and its detachment of Islamic ideology. In reality, they are just power seekers in an internal generational struggle within the regime.

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The regime and its ideological supporters are ready to fight and oppress any popular demand movement. The last wide-spread demonstrations in June-July 2012 were against the austerity measures initiated by the government which resulted in a 300% increase in the prices and over 200% drop of the purchasing power of the Sudanese Pound. This was in response to the inflation rate that rose 45% after failed attempts to reach a fair agreement with the government of South Sudan on oil exports via the pipe line to North Sudan.

Saee’hoon and other Islamic reformists seem to know very well that respecting popular opinion in the streets means the demise of the power that they are fighting over. That is why the street is indifferent towards the internal crackdowns among the regime. While the reasons that led to the unrest in the streets are still present and growing deeper every day, none of the rival factions are addressing its concerns or promising any realistic change or reform.

Another reason the regime continues to survive is because the international community supports it and turns a blind eye to its crimes. The latest report from December 2012 by the International Crisis Group recommends that the international community and policymakers continue supporting regime reform. However many Sudanese reject any proposal which allows the possibility of political asylum to regime figures which leaves them safe from prosecution for their atrocities and human rights violations. It is a myth that dissolving the regime will lead to a national crisis and may cause more unrest in the region. The opposite will occur and the price of the regime to leave is far less than the cost of its survival.

Dr. Amgad Fareid El Tayeb is spokesperson of SudanChangeNow. Born in Khartoum, Sudan, Amgad is a medical doctor and currently a PhD researcher in Life Science at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He is involved in politics and has called for democratic change in Sudan since secondary school as a member of the Democratic Front for Sudanese Students and after graduation member of the Democratic league of Doctors.