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Removal of Bashir lesson that no one has eternal power

'Power belongs to the people, leaders are just stewards'

In Summary

• Leaders should be ready to leave office when their terms come to an end.

• Removal of al-Bashir is a chance for Sudan to start over with a leader of choice.

Sudanese demonstrators chant slogans during a protest demanding Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir to step down in Khartoum, Sudan, on April 6
FRESH START: Sudanese demonstrators chant slogans during a protest demanding Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir to step down in Khartoum, Sudan, on April 6
Image: REUTERS

The bold action by the citizens of Sudan has baffled many as it is often believed that ordinary people are powerless. The news of the removal of Omar al-Bashir as the President of Sudan shows to what extent power can blackmail our leaders. His removal from power by the military happened less than two years after the ousting of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

While the removal of Omar al-Bashir, often referred to as one of Africa’s strongest men, seems like a new start for the people of Sudan, we must bring to an end the cycle of conflicts; the increase in corruption and inability of governments to provide equal opportunity for all; which continues to put the lives of many people across the continent at risk.

During his reign, Sudan and Southern Sudan experienced over-dependence on international aid, endless conflicts and elections incapable of meeting international standards. Africans must be encouraged to deepen peaceful transitions which can spur democracy and strengthen governance. Wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, the Sudan longtime ruler’s reign has abruptly come to an end the same way he assumed power 30 years ago.

His overthrowing is a clear indication that Africa’s strong men, whose appetite for power is insatiable, will not be powerful for life. And for many years, Omar al-Bashir was politically responsible for millions of civilians killed and general political instability experienced in Darfur. While he has finally exited from power, Omar al-Bashir would be remembered as a president who was generally responsible for merciless genocides in Darfur.

His removal by the military after months of civilian protests sends a powerful signal to leaders who think they are eternal rulers. What is now important to the people of Sudan is to commit themselves to ensure a successful transition of power. Any nation rising or falling is entirely dependent on its leaders and we must support the people of Sudan in moving forward.

As we ponder on Bashir’s removal by the very forces who would ordinarily protect the president, we can learn a few lessons that can be shared across Africa. One of them is understanding that the power belongs to the people and leaders only are only stewards. We need to raise transformational leaders who are not seeking to cling to power, but rather seeking to improve countless lives by respecting the rule of law and a good understanding of human rights. 

Secondly, leaders need to be aware that their overstay in power and amending the constitution is often the recipe for political instability and harm to the economic lifestyle of its citizens. Former Botswana President Ian Khama left power voluntary and in turn earned himself a place in the history of Africa, a continent known for chaotic transition of power.

Thirdly, Africa’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law is the ingredient to transformation of Africa. Our leaders’ willingness to step down from power after their terms in office offers hope for seamless transitions for years to come. Born in Hosh Banagga in 1944 , just north of the capital Khartoum,  it would be difficult for the young generation of Sudan to understand Bashir’s exit from power, but it opens a new page of opportunities for millions of citizens to redefine and chart a new path to growth and prosperity.

While Sudan is not yet a paragon of peace and prosperity, the country should ensure their next leader is pragmatic and a visionary who will have the tenacity to steer the country right and seek unity for citizens. Other African nations should stand with Sudan as they find a way out of the imprisonment they had been subjected to, and find a better person to lead the country; and other leaders should learn from Sudan and play their part to serve their electorates. 

The writer is a governance expert from Samburu county.