THE PERMANENCE OF ARAB UPRISINGS
24, Apr 2019
Prelims level : International Mains level : GS-II Governance, Constitution, Polity and IR
Why in News:
- Mass protests in Algeria and sudan have recently removed two aging autocrats, ending 20 and 30 years, respectively, of absolutist rule. In both countries, the insurgents are now locked in negotiations with the army, the de facto managers of a transition to a new political order. The outcome of these power struggles will help to determine whether Algeria and Sudan become more democratic and prosperous, or instead add to a decade- long chain of disappointed hopes in the region.
Background: / What was going on in Sudan?
- Sudan has been engulfed by violence for more than a century, even while it was under the British-Egyptian colonial rule.
- Since independence in 1956, this North African nation has seen sectarian violence, famines and political instability.
- The latest coup ousting Bashir is the fifth such forcible takeover.
How was Bashir’s rule?
- Omar al-Bashir became the country’s ruler in 1989 after he toppled a democratically- elected government. He was supported by the National Islamic Front, an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood in the country.
- The National Islamic Front sought to enforce Saudi-sponsored orthodox Islam in Sudan.
- After Bashir came to power, the country went on to adopt this radical version of Islam.
- It departed from the moderate Sufi tradition that it earlier followed. This caused great detriment to women’s rights and to the status of minorities. Sudan thus became the nesting ground for the world’s jihadists and even sheltered Osama bin Laden in the 1990s.
- The first few years of Bashir’s rule were especially blood-soaked.
What were the earlier conflicts?
- Minorities’ resentment (in southern parts of the country) since 1983 led to a bitter civil war that lasted for 22 years and claimed over 20 lakh lives.
- The region finally seceded in 2011 to form the new country of South Sudan, taking away more than two-thirds of Sudan’s oil reserves.
- Bashir also pitilessly cracked down on the insurgency in the gold-rich Darfur region. Its Muslim but non-Arab people accused Bashir of only favouring Arab Muslims.
- A savage militia backed by Bashir used sexual violence, torture, and starvation as methods to suppress dissent.
- During his three-decade rule, Bashir had outlawed several organisations opposed to his rule such as trade unions.
- He also jailed or murdered political opponents and journalists. The US designated the repression as ‘genocide’ in 2004.
- The International Court of Justice in 2009 issued a warrant against Bashir.
What is the immediate cause for the current protests?
- People were already wary of Bashir’s autocratic rule.
- In December 2018, Sudan took measures to enact austerity measures recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
- It devalued its currency, the Sudanese Pound, and cut back on subsidies. This led to a steep rise in inflation and food prices.
- The price rise in essential commodities sparked anger among the Sudanese people.
- The current protests have been organised by recently emerged groups such as the Sudanese Professionals Association.
- Protests erupted in the eastern part of the country and soon reached the capital Khartoum.
How did it evolve thereafter?
- The Bashir regime initially tried to deprive the movement of popular support by claiming that the rallies were backed by the rebel movement from the Darfur region.
- This tactic backfired as the crowds grew in size, and the slogan “We are all Darfur” was raised. So what began as a protest against price rise transformed into a mass movement, calling for Bashir’s resignation.
- Sudan’s male-dominated Sharia-inspired setup also came under attack.
- Following this, a tremendous women turnout was registered in the protest and women went on to constitute 70% of the protesters.
- Religious leaders who supported Bashir were also denounced.
What happened finally?
- The persistence of the protests finally compelled the military to step in.
- Military intervention ejected Bashir from power, thereby ending his brutal 30-year rule, and he was sent to prison. In turn, a Transitional Military Council (TMC) took power.
- The TMC has since announced a three-month emergency and transition period of 2 years. It has promised transfer of power to a civilian government in its aftermath while reserving few ministries for itself, such as Defence. Since taking power, the Council has appointed fresh faces to key positions such as the army, police and the intelligence wing.
- It has also lifted restraints on the media.
Why is protest still continuing?
- Protesters were dismayed by the coup and believe that the TMC is run by those close to Bashir. Notably, the leader of the Bashir-supported militia, General Mohamed Hamdan, was appointed as the Vice President of the Transitional Military Council.
- So protests are continuing against the newly-imposed military rule.
- The African Union Commission has also criticised the military takeover.