Thu, 18 Jul 2019

Algeria and Sudan: The next (but not last) Arab Spring cycle

The Arab Daily News
20 Apr 2019, 16:37 GMT+10

State building takes decades not years. It is easier to topple dictators than regimes, and it is faster to change regimes than ideas. Protestors need to agree and organize to make a good transition to democracy. State building requires review of traditional values which are considered absolute, self evident or prescribed by the divine.

The 2011 uprisings ousted entrenched rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, but not in Syria. Another sobering outcome: only Tunisia succeeded, albeit with some reversals, in bringing a relatively peaceful transition. For many, the failure of four out of five uprisings spoiled the image of the Arab Spring. With the resignation of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on April second, and the military toppling of Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir on April 11, the attention of the international community has been re-drawn to the vitality of this regional movement

In looking deeper into the process of sociopolitical change the Arab Spring has proven to be irreversible and inspiring. While the Arab Spring series of uprisings in 2011 removed dictators, the emerging Arab Spring events of 2019 (in Sudan and Algeria) aim at removing political systems. And future Arab Spring uprisings will focus more on changing ideas and attitudes. In the years to come, there will be new initiatives of reform to soften patriarchal values in the family, the school and the worship place. This advanced round of behavior change is so critical for democracy.

Protesters have learned some useful lessons since the 2011 outbreaks. It took only two months of peaceful, nationwide street protest for the Algerians to oust a leader who had been in power for twenty years. And it took only four months for the Sudanese to depose a dictator who had been in power for thirty years.

In Algeria the protestors are also not ready to let the interim president and the rest of the ancien regime be in charge of the coming presidential elections. We will hopefully see more concessions from the Sudanese and Algerian armies as the impasse continues.

There seems to be no predisposition for the Generals to crack down on two uprisings (especially in Sudan) which have gained momentum. The military in both countries should hand over the political transition to a civilian group. But since the protestors are not yet organized, the military is likely to try to exploit this organizational weakness and insist on taking a large role in the transition.

Unless regional or international pressure is seriously applied on these two military leaderships the outcome of the 2019 Arab Spring is likely to be limited. Regrettably, Washington is not yet much willing to spend precious political capital on the situation in Algeria and in Sudan. As for the regions role in this situation, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the AUE would not welcome two Arab states transforming into democratic regimes; that would accelerate the pace of freedom in the Arab world. Second, a free Sudan would weaken the Saudi front in the war on Yemen; Sudans mercenaries in this fratricidal war would be withdrawn once a truly new government is established. And a free Algeria would also threaten the status-quo bloc in the Arab world. Incidentally, Egyptian President Sisi is in process of expanding his authority and extending his term 11 years. Unlike the Arab League, the African Union has been vocal on Sudans army grab of power.

Nevertheless, 2019 uprisings will show progress toward democracy beyond the level of 2011 uprisings. The seeds of change for the next round of uprisings have been sown.

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