They never learn from others’ mistakes. This seems to be how presidents act; the latest of whom is Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir who is facing angry protests in which a number of people have been killed and others injured. In spite of this, he is still using methods that have failed other presidents to deal with them.
This includes presidents such as former presidents of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, and of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Perhaps Al-Bashir’s recent visit and meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad convinced him of the Syrian way; accept Assad’s way or the country gets burned down. This has proven successful as Al-Assad is still in office and the country has burned down.
One important thing that neither Al-Bashir nor other presidents who preceded him seem to understand is that people get sick and tired of a government that remains in power for long periods, no matter who runs it. And just like hearts and bodies, people get bored as well.
The Libyan people could not bear more than 42 years of “green book” rule, Egypt could not bear more than 30 years of “the one who launched the air strike”, Yemen could not bear more than 30 years of the “snake dancer” regime, Tunisia could not bear more than 23 years of the rule of the “maker of blessed change”, and Syria could not bear more than 50 years of the rule of “the lion’s” regime between father and son and perhaps a grandson.
This is not happening in kingdoms of hereditary governance, but in republics where periodic elections are held, and they talk about democracy and transparency!
People get tired and regimes get weary. People are no longer able to tolerate more of the regimes and the regimes have nothing new to offer. People can no longer absorb words they’ve heard from their leaders thousands of times and those leaders can no longer impress their citizens with anything.
That’s why most people living in real democracies change their president and ruling party from time to time to break this monotony and to give opportunities for competitions and offering the best. And even when a successful ruler continues to rule for successive years, they change him or her because they no longer have anything to offer.
Facing unarmed demonstrators with live bullets is the end of the legitimacy of any regime, despite all relatively coherent and circumstantial justifications. Al-Bashir has previously done that, during the demonstrations of September 2013. He has tightened his grip on Sudan and not let go for 30 years, during which he only offered dances with sticks and speeches filled with religious denotations to justify his various policies.
Why would make Sudanese people believe him when he says that these days are a difficult but transient stage, that prosperity will come soon and that God gave Sudan all the goods? Why would they believe him? After all, he’s the one who never respected any of his promises, including the one where he promised not to run for office for another term.
And here he’s talking about a peaceful transfer of power in the 2020 elections, a term he would not have uttered without the people showing their anger and he would never repeat once the masses calm down. This term can be interpreted in so many ways, including that he may not run for elections or that he would go back on this promise just like he did so many times previously.
How can a president promise his people a better future while he is actually shooting the ones who are trying to make change faster? And then he says that killing demonstrators is retribution to deter others and to maintain security!
As one Sudanese national said, Al-Bashir held three meetings of a security nature last week alone. They were held with armed forces, security services, intelligence services and police forces. He praised their performance and said the crisis is economic.
If the crisis is economic as he says, then he should’ve met with parties related to the economy, commerce and budgeting. Another Sudanese national describing Al-Bashir as moody and added in a tweet: “If they [the demonstrators] are traitors, then how could you promise them a decent life, and if their demands are fair, then how come you call them traitors?”
A Sudanese journalist who supports the demonstrations said that the Sudanese want a new regime and a new year that is different to the past 30, which left them with oppression and tyranny. All they want now is to reclaim their hijacked homeland. He added that what Al-Bashir is doing is buying time and selling promises.
But buying time is very difficult, and selling promises are loss-making trade.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 2 January 2019
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.