DISPATCHES FROM A NOMAD

Lessons for the region from Sudan Uprising

Tens of thousands of civilians continue to defy the temporary military rule extension

In Summary

• The professional conduct of the military and the protesting public in Sudan has hugely helped in maintaining the country's peace and sovereignty.

• The military continues to maintain very high standards of patriotism and nationalism by protecting the very civilian protesters.

Sudanese soldiers are seen on their vehicles as they move with a military convoy outside the defense ministry compound in Khartoum, Sudan, April 25, 2019.
Sudanese soldiers are seen on their vehicles as they move with a military convoy outside the defense ministry compound in Khartoum, Sudan, April 25, 2019.
Image: REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Sudan is experiencing a political crisis as a result of civilian unrest that earlier this year toppled former President  Omar al-Bashir and now defies the 10-member military council that wants to oversee a two-year transitional rule.

Tens of thousands of civilians continue to defy the temporary military rule extension.

The public insistence on defying the military transitional rule is already having its toll on the Military Council, forcing leadership changes and just this week the resignation of three senior council members.

There is no question that the professional conduct of the military and the protesting public in Sudan has hugely helped in maintaining the country's peace and sovereignty. The military maintains that their work is to defend the nation and the people.

I was particularly impressed when the military stopped police and intelligence agents brutality on protesters. This later forced the head of intelligence to resign. This is a rare occurrence.

PROTECTING PROTESTERS

The military continues to maintain very high standards of patriotism and nationalism by protecting the very civilian protesters who forced their former Commander-in-Chief, Gen Bashir, to resign and now defy their transition rule. The protesters are demanding the reinstatement of a civilian rule.

We know how militaries in most countries in the region have tolerated dictators, protected them and in some cases continue to back totalitarian regimes at the expense of the people and country. 

In Sudan, when the public said no more Bashir, the army refused to be forced to help keep the general in power. 

A Sudanese protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask waves a national flag outside the defence ministry compound in Khartoum, Sudan, April 24, 2019.
A Sudanese protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask waves a national flag outside the defence ministry compound in Khartoum, Sudan, April 24, 2019.
Image: REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Scenes of heavily armed military officers on tanks and armoured vehicles providing security to the anti-government protests while freely mingling with angry protesters and at times even seen dancing with them when Bashir resigned was not only moving but timely as it helped defuse tension and maintain peace. 

Could you imagine such scenes happening in Mogadishu, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Kampala or even Burundi?

How would the military in those countries treat protesters? And more importantly, how would the civilians have behaved? Can we really protest in a civilised manner without destroying property like the Sudanese protesters? 

RARE GESTURE

The reality is that such scenes are rare in Africa. The only other example I can remember was in Zimbabwe, when the military briefly took over power after ousting Africa's longest-serving President, Robert Mugabe. 

In Zimbabwe’s case, we know the military protected Mugabe, while in Sudan Bashir is said to be under house arrest. Just recently, the Sudanese military announced seizure of millions of US Dollars found in Bashir's house in Khartoum. This clearly shows the Sudan military impartiality.

I believe we have a lot to learn from Sudan. The people of Sudan have proved that violence is not the best way to resolve high stake political crisis, they proved that you can actually peacefully picket and ultimately force the government to respect the will of the people.

On Wednesday, Sudanese judges announced they would be joining the protesters, who are also professionals such as doctors, teachers camped outside the Sudan military headquarters, to call for judicial independence. 

RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES

The judges’ announcement to join protesters is, of course, a huge boost to the protest and shows the high levels of maturity, organisation and above all, the level of patriotism among the civilians who certainly know their rights and privileges. 

This is clearly a highly learned and civilised people that we should emulate and learn from. I hope our men in uniform have seen how the Sudanese military handle the protesters.


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