As woes mount, Sudan’s leader acts to ensure rule

Bashir makes deal with opposition but his situation remains precarious.

Omar al Bashir 311 R (photo credit: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah / Reuters)
Omar al Bashir 311 R
(photo credit: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah / Reuters)
With regimes crumbling all around him, Sudanese President Omar Bashir is engaged in constant political maneuvering to stay in power in his attempt to avoid following in the footsteps of the rulers of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and potentially Syria.
He made a deal this week with Sudan's chief opposition party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to join his government, and his army appears to have crushed rebel pockets across the country.
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The country, however, remains plagued by unresolved wars and spiraling inflation. It is also going through a financial crisis brought on by the secession of South Sudan in July, which took away approximately 75% of the country’s oil wealth. Government oil export revenues dropped from $6.2 billion in 2010 to just $1.5 billion this year. Some analysts are warning that these issues could lead to a bloody push to bring down the regime.
“If and when the storm breaks here, there is good reason to fear that Sudan will witness an extremely violent power struggle that could degenerate into civil war and possibly the disintegration of north Sudan,” observed David Ottaway, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center.
Writing for Foreign Policy, Ottaway said that Bashir’s opponents were “gearing up to push for an end to his regime” either through negotiations or through arms.
Bashir, 66, came to power with the aid of Islamists back in 1989, but Sudan has a history of overthrowing military dictators. In 1964, in a move similar to the Egyptian revolt centered in Tahrir Square, tens of thousands of workers and students took over the streets of Khartoum until Gen. Ibrahim Abboud agreed to step down. It was the first ever civilian uprising against a dictator in the Arab world.
Earlier this year, the International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a scathing report on Sudan, accusing the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) of exacerbating ethnic and regional divisions in the country that could lead to a more fragmentation of Sudan.
The report warned that Khartoum had ignored the grievances of the country’s marginal areas, like Darfur, and that if it didn’t move to have a more inclusive government then Sudan risked more violence and disintegration.
“Security hardliners see these as minor issues, not imminent threats to their survival, and remain committed to a military solution for chronic instability,” the report said.
Bashir, who has an outstanding ICC arrest warrant against him for war crimes and crimes against humanity, called Sunday on his armed forces to complete its mission against rebel pockets across the country, particularly in Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile.
Speaking before the NCP general conference, Bashir said that rebellions in these areas were driven by mercenaries and foreign agents who put the country in crisis.
The Sudanese leader said that the entire world is undergoing changes and that people everywhere and not just in Sudan are looking for freedom. “We want to free the will of the people from subordination and oppression....humanity needs Mohammad’s guidance," Bashir was said.
The ICG report also noted that Bashir, concerned about a possible coup, fragmented the Sudanese security services and had come to rely increasingly on personal loyalty and tribal allegiances to remain in power.
With soaring food prices and spiraling inflation, pro-democracy groups like Girifna, or “Fed Up,” have tried to organize peaceful protests. But Bashir's regime has learned the importance of securing important civilian areas and preventing mass protests from past Arab revolutions
“The regime is very, very good at keeping control of the central areas. They are the people who themselves grew up with the experience of Sudan’s two earlier revolutions in 1964 and 1985 and they know the importance of keeping control of Khartoum and the central areas and they have shown themselves as pretty good at doing that.”
“While there have been a number of demonstrations and goings on over the past year, a lot of Internet chatter, there has been nothing of the kind of really impressive scale (like in Egypt and Syria),” he added.
Regarding whether or not he believed that the Bashir regime was doomed to fall, Justin Willis, an East African expert at Britain’s Durham University, said, “he could be overthrown tomorrow, but that doesn’t look at all likely to me.” Williams, in an interview with The Media Line, added that “at the moment he doesn’t seem very likely to fall. He is very strong. It is hard to see much in the way of substantial political action at the center of Sudan of the kind that could bring him down.”