My colleague and sometimes traveling companion Armin Rosen has an interesting essay right here in World Affairs that everyone interested in the Arab Spring, Africa, or both ought to check out. He argues that the bloodthirsty Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir may well be on his way out.
Sudan is a bit wide of my regular beat and I profess no expertise whatsoever in what’s going on there, but Armin pays more attention to it than anybody I know and, unlike me, he has been there, and he has been there recently.
Like other Arab dictators over the past year or so, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has ruled Sudan since 1989, is facing what’s liable to be his last days in office. His end might resemble Muammar el-Qaddafi’s, with a mob of angry militants cornering him in a ditch or side street, delirious at the opportunity to exercise some small measure of revenge. Or it might look like Hosni Mubarak’s, with a brief message sheepishly read on state television while an opaque yet orderly reshuffling of power occurs far from the prying eyes of opposition forces or street-level activists. Or perhaps his ouster will be like Ali Abdullah Saleh’s in Yemen, with the despised autocrat staggering impotently toward a graceful exit and eventually leaving the remnants of his political machine to shore up a country on the brink of collapse.
Any of these scenarios is possible in Sudan, whose regime is the most oppressive and violent of those that have come under the winds of the Arab Spring: an Iran-allied and philosophically Islamist government whose top leadership has been indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Court, and which is now engaged in armed struggle against four declared enemies. Like the similarly embattled Baath regime in Syria, the National Congress Party government in Khartoum can only legitimize its rule, or even maintain its country as a coherent political unit, at gunpoint. But unlike the Baath party in Syria, the NCP faces a well-organized and battle-hardened insurgency with national-level coordination and a demonstrated ability to capture and hold onto territory—in addition to a full-blown economic depression, a growing urban protest movement, and a conventional military enemy that’s better organized and far more motivated than the regime’s own professional armed forces. “The regime is over,” says Abdullahi Gallab, a professor at Arizona State University who specializes in Sudanese history and civil society. “There is no regime now. The only thing that is intact or semi-intact are tools of oppression.”