In 2010 and 2011 the Arab Spring swept across many parts of the Middle East and North Africa. The western world watched with awe and amazement as peaceful protests cried out for regime change and reform. The Obama administration stood back and let historical allies like Hosni Mubarak in Egypt be swept away by the tide of democracy that was sweeping the region. At last, the time of dictators had come to an end and democracy was springing afresh in the Arab world.
Then it all fell apart. Egypt elected the Muslim Brotherhood to office. They were quickly thrown out in a military coup and an Egyptian military leader assumed leadership in of the nation in the same pattern that has been established there since the Free Officers Coup in 1952.
In Libya, protesters captured Muammar Gaddafi and killed him. The state has been racked with unrest and destabilizing civil war ever since. In Syria, as part of an effort to stop any potential Arab Spring fruit from springing up, Bashir al Assad countered protests against his rule with violence that eventually became the Syrian Civil War. Nearly half a million have died as a result of this conflict in Syria alone.
America and the west love a good narrative. The narrative that was sold to us during the Arab Spring was about democracy, freedom, and liberty. It was not a true narrative but we bought it and were left confused by the resulting actions.
We are doing it again!
Yesterday, four months of protests in Sudan ended in the ouster of long-time dictator Omar al Bashir. The western media has widely celebrated the event and painted the narrative with the language and values of democracy and freedom.
- The Women Who Helped Bring Down Sudan’s President (Vox)
- Sudanese Troops Move To Protect Anti-Government Protesters (CNN)
- Protesters in Sudan Celebrate End to Bashir’s Rule (Guardian)
Throughout the morning and afternoon headlines from Europe and the United States celebrated the dawn of a new era. The Financial Times went so far as to suggest, In Algeria and Sudan a Second Arab Spring is Brewing. The Wall Street Journal did the same.
The only problem is that little of this is true. We are being sold an artificial narrative about democracy breaking forth in North Africa. When this so-called surge of democracy fails, the west will once again look to North African and be confused. It will be thought, although probably not said, that some cultures simply cannot handle the benefits and responsibilities of democracy.
- Read my Backgrounder on the Protests in Sudan here
Facts to Consider in Sudan
Omar al Bashir was overthrown by a military coup – not by peaceful protests. The protests have been ongoing for four months. These have been provoked by economic conditions that are spreading to the elites within the country. When the coup was announced the public was informed that Sudan would be under a two year interim period of military rule. This will then be followed by presidential elections. Also, the constitution has been suspended and a three-month state of emergency and curfew has been imposed.
The new leader of Sudan who has announced all of these changes is Defense Minister Awad Ibn Auf. He also carries the title of Lieutenant General in Sudan’s military. He, like Omar al Bashir before him, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide charges in Darfur. He is also on the US sanctions list for those same crimes.
If these facts are not enough to counter the narrative of a glorious democratic uprising in Sudan, we should also remember this – the people of Sudan are still protesting. In spite of the state of emergency, in spite of the ouster of al Bashir, in spite of the curfew – they have not gone home.
The popular narrative of a peaceful democratic coup is only wishful thinking at the present time. While we can hope for the best in Sudan the facts on the ground are telling us that we might be closer to a tragedy unfolding. Even this morning the new military leaders of Sudan have already issued warnings to the ongoing protests that further disturbances will not be tolerated.