Sudanese pro-democracy protesters won further concessions from the army that overthrew President Omar al-Bashir, as upheaval in the ruling military council signals a power struggle among the remnants of his 30-year regime.
Since taking control, the council has cancelled its curfew, freed prisoners, changed leadership and vowed to review laws that brought trials for perceived indecency or apostasy, all in response to mass protests.
Yet it hasn’t budged on the key opposition demand of an immediate handover to civilians — insisting on as long as two years — and named as its deputy head Mohamed Hamdan, the chief of a powerful militia accused of rights abuses.
There’s “jockeying for power within what remains” of al-Bashir’s regime, said Harry Verhoeven, author of ‘Water, Civilization and Power in Sudan.’ He cited a failure to “agree on a division of labor among them and a joint strategy to deal with the protesters” that “has been on full display.”
The ouster of al-Bashir, one of Africa’s longest-serving rulers, followed four months of protests across the oil-producing nation in which dozens of people were killed.
Now under house arrest, he’s the second North African leader forced from office this month in the face of mass demonstrations, following Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
It’s stirred echoes of the Arab Spring uprisings earlier this decade.
In the final days of al-Bashir’s rule, soldiers clashed with security forces attempting to crush a sit-in outside army headquarters in the capital, Khartoum. It lay bare splits in the complex political-security alliances the 75-year-old president forged after seizing power in an Islamist-backed 1989 coup. The threat of more internecine fighting likely contributed to al-Bashir’s associates’ decision to remove him.
What’s left is “Bashirism without Bashir,” said Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University in Massachusetts. Defense Minister Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, who announced the coup, stepped down as head of transitional military council less than two days later, as protesters raged against a prominent member of al-Bashir’s regime wielding power.
The council announced the general is retiring and that Sudan’s ambassador to Washington, Mohamed Ata, the former head of the National Intelligence and Security Service, is being replaced.
Salah Gosh, who twice served as NISS’s chief, resigned. A restructuring of the service is promised.
“The deal between the army, NISS and the paramilitaries is fundamentally unstable because of the rivalries among them and because they won’t be able to resolve the challenge of the mass protesters,” De Waal said.
As Sudanese refuse to leave the streets, there’s no guarantee the council’s latest formation will be any longer lasting.