Sudan’s Bold Challenge to Authoritarianism

By Fergal Keane, BBC

Certain moments in history offer the possibility of change, not just in one place but as a signal in millions of lives and beyond national borders. What is unfolding in Sudan has the potential to shape an epoch on the continent of Africa.
I stress the word potential. The triumph of a peaceful pluralist dispensation is far from guaranteed in Sudan.
Negotiations with the military elite have not yet established the parameters or personalities that would rule the country in a transition to full democracy.
Will the transition be two years or four years? Will the military retain control of security policy and ministries? How will cabinet posts be divided between the constituent parts of the opposition – civil society and established political parties?
Big questions but none can detract from the immensity of this moment.Not since the days when Nelson Mandela left prison in 1990 and campaigned in the South African townships have I seen such exuberance – the wide, open face of honest hope.
The crowds in front of the army headquarters in Khartoum occupy a space that is both physical and psychological.
Every hope – real and forlorn – is funneled into what has become a sacred spac.
There are families petitioning for news of long-disappeared loved ones, Darfuris demanding the trial of the ousted President Omar Al Bashir, lawyers calling for the rule of law, doctors pleading for universal healthcare, teachers calling for a revolution in education.
Not all can possibly be satisfied. But that is the struggle of the future.
First comes the immense task of achieving a transition from 30 years of military rule to a civilian administration.
In this regard, Sudan appears to be more fortunate than Algeria which is also experiencing street protests against an entrenched “deep state”.
The Sudanese generals have been extremely pragmatic.
They ditched the coup leader within 24 hours when it became clear the street detested him. Three other Islamist generals were forced to resign as part of the price for the protesters resuming negotiations.
The new military leader, Lt Gen Abdul Fatah al-Burhan, has given interviews to the international media and is quick to react to opposition initiatives.
It is an extraordinary contrast to the sclerotic and paranoid government of the previous three decades.
But can Sudan inspire seismic change elsewhere in Africa? The immediate signs are not optimistic.

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