This year’s mini-Arab Spring ended the decades long reigns of Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algeria and Omar al Bashir in Sudan. The struggle of power between the entrenched politico-military establishments of the two countries and the popular movements dominating the streets, however, continues to play out. 

Sudan’s ruling Military Transitional Council and the opposition alliance, the Declaration of Freedom and Changes Forces, agreed in principle in mid-April to form a joint body to run the country until the next election. But the structure of the council, notably whether it will be dominated by officers or civilians, remains a source of contention. 

While the military ended al Bashir’s 30-year-old rule on March 11 and purged his deputy and intelligence chief to appease the demonstrators, it has insisted on a two-year transition period during which it will hold presidential elections. The military has repeatedly tried to find a means to appease the demonstrators with the purpose of gaining more time without fundamentally changing the nature of the regime. The protestors, on their part, seem to have imbibed the lessons of the last Arab Spring and openly dismiss the army’s claims that it is supportive of their political aspirations. Large-scale protests have continued in Khartoum to this day and continue to demand full-fledged civilian rule. 

General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan is presently the interim ruler of the country. More noteworthy is that he has appointed as a deputy the army commander who had carried out the Darfur massacres and a known hard-liner.

The Sudanese protests have highlighted the role of the country’s five million strong diaspora who have provided funds and social media support, held supporting protests across the world, and even the movement’s theme song – Sudanese reggae star Ayman Mao’s “Blood.”

So far, the Sudanese army has been wary of turning their guns on the protestors as they did in earlier street demonstrations in 2011, 2012 and 2013. This reflects the much larger social base of the present protests, triggered by rising food prices, and the fact they began in places like Abtara which were seen as strongholds of regime support. 

In Algeria, the regime has begun moving towards holding elections in July 4 with at least four presidential candidates in the running. The ruling National Liberation Front hopes to divide and eventually co-opt the protests through the election process. Only two of the candidates can really be seen as political outsiders and one of them represents the Muslim Brotherhood, a body to which the establishment remains hostile. 

Somewhat like in Libya, Egypt and the Gulf monarchies feel their interests lie in maintaining autocratic regimes in as much of the Arab world as possible and, therefore, are quietly supporting the Sudanese military. Egypt, where its military leader President Abdelfattah al-Sisi is moving to change the constitution so he could theoretically stay in power until 2034 has declared its support for the Sudanese military regime. Saudi Arabia has expressed sympathy for the demonstrators but has provided money and supplies to the military council.">Sudan's military and opposition 'agree on joint council'

The emerging front-runners in Algeria’s uncertain election

Sudan’s diaspora has played a crucial role in supporting the anti-Bashir protests">
How Egypt views turmoil in neighboring Sudan

Battling for the Future: Arab Protests 2.0

Arab power struggles: “The King is dead, long live the King”


April 30, 2019

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About the Author

Pramit Pal Chaudhury

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Foreign Editor, Hindustan Times, and Distinguished Fellow & Head, Strategic Affairs, Ananta Aspen Centre

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri writes on political, security, and economic issues. He previously wrote for the Statesman and the Telegraph in Calcutta. He served on the National Security Advisory Board of the Indian government from 2011-2015. Among other affiliations, he is a member of the Asia Society Global Council, the Aspen Institute Italia, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and the Mont Pelerin Society. Pramit is also a senior associate of Rhodium Group, New York City, advisor to the Bower Group Asia in India, a member of the Council on Emerging Markets, Washington, DC, and a delegate for the Confederation of Indian Industry-Aspen Strategy Group Indo-U.S. Strategic Dialogue and the Ananta Aspen Strategic Dialogues with Japan, China and Israel. Born in 1964, he has visited over fifty countries on five continents. Mr. Pal Chaudhuri is a history graduate from Cornell University.