Sunday, December 13, 2009

Amir Taheri: The Sudan - A Saga of Missed Opportunities

An economy in meltdown, a President of the Republic indicted for crimes against humanity, and a ruling clique fighting among themselves as piranhas in a pool.

The last thing the Sudan, one of Africa's martyred nations, wanted was a new round of violence shaking its foundations.

Yet, this is what happened on Monday as demonstrators took to the streets to call for an end to a despotic regime imposed with a military coup in 1989.

Although spearheaded by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), a southern outfit campaigning for independence from Khartoum, the demonstrations attracted a range of opposition parties from across the country.

Protestors sacked President General Omar al-Bashir's offices in a number of key cities in the south, the west and the north.

By mid-week, it had become clear that the movement enjoyed support from a broad spectrum of political groups, from the secular left to the Islamists led by Hassan al-Turabi, a former ally and, later, a prisoner of al-Bashir's. Even the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), an artificial concoction designed to offer despotism a democratic fig leaf, is now split.

It is no exaggeration to suggest that the president and his entourage no longer enjoy any significant support base.

President al-Bashir has always tried to justify his rule with the claim that he is the man who ended the north-south civil war that started in the 1950s, reaching its most intense phase from 1983 to 2005.

According to estimates by the United Nations, this was Africa's longest war and, having claimed 2.5 million lives, the costliest in human terms.

With almost 12 years of fighting, General al-Bashir's regime was responsible for at least half of those victims. Add to that the estimated two million believed to have died in the Darfur tragedy, and the general's record emerges as one of the bloodiest in modern African history.

There are times when history dictates the closing chapters even of the longest surviving rulers. Today, it seems that General al-Bashir's rule is becoming the subject of precisely such a final chapter.

The NCP regime may have reached the end of the line not only because of its disastrous political record, massive and well-documented corruption, and sheer brutality.

The main reason it is in trouble is its perceived incompetence, its obvious inability to offer a roadmap for the major problems the nation faces.

Today, the general looks like the Wizard of Oz at the end of the saga when he has to admit that he does not know how to lead Dorothy back to her home in Kansas.

It no longer matters whether he is a good man. What matters is that he is a bad wizard.

More at Asharq Alawsat

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