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On the events in Algeria and Sudan

March 15, 2019 at 2:35 pm

Sudanese protesters attend an anti-government demonstration in the capital Khartoum on 14 February 2019 [AFP/Getty Images]

The ongoing popular uprisings in Algeria and Sudan have caused the countries to look to each other and left observers and analysts unable to avoid comparisons. Such comparisons are made either between the slogans, goals and active forces in the uprisings or between the consequences, outcomes and how the authorities are dealing with the two major uprisings in the two important countries.

Both uprisings occurred against a socio-economic background, triggered by their presidents running for additional terms after being in office for many, many years (Bashir for 30 years and Bouteflika for 20). Both countries face harsh living conditions and the failure of the government to ensure the people’s minimum needs and their needs to live a dignified life. Both countries have experienced civil war (Algeria in the Black Decade and Sudan in the war with and over the South, as well as with Darfur and South Kordofan).

As a result of the uprisings, the leaders emerge to the public and made tempting offers of change and prosperity. However, this did not calm the angry masses, but rather raised fundamental questions in both countries: What can you do during a new term that you were unable to do in the past several terms? If you can keep all of these promises, why didn’t you offer them until after a flood of angry masses took to the streets and squares?

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In Algeria, the government gave in to the popular youth anger, but it was partial submission that could possibly go back and undermine the promises of reform. This is known to a large number of people and protestors. The president decided not to run for a fifth term, but he already extended his term an additional year, which also means an extension to what the Algerians call the ruling “junta” or “Oligarchy”. However, the people were unconvinced and therefore continued to protest and their popular and political action until they were certain that Algeria entered the “second republic” phase and bid farewell to what is known as the “revolutionary legitimacy”, replacing it with democratic legitimacy, i.e. the legitimacy of the ballot box.

People attend a demonstration to protest against candidacy of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a 5th term in Algiers, Algeria on 4 March 2019 [Farouk Batiche/Anadolu Agency]

People attend a demonstration to protest against candidacy of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a 5th term in Algiers, Algeria on 4 March 2019 [Farouk Batiche/Anadolu Agency]

In Sudan, submission did not reach this level and the government is still betting on the possibility of subjugating and containing the revolutionary wave. The offers for reform are much less than those made by the Algeria authorities to its people. The most President Al-Bashir offered is a cabinet reshuffle, conditioned pardon for prisoners, and the abolition of the punishment of “whipping” imposed on demonstrators.

The Sudanese people, as well as the Algerians, have not stopped protesting, despite the grip of the iron fist on them as well as dozens killed and double the number wounded and arrested. They are likely looking at what is happening in neighbouring Algeria and finding that the Algerian uprising is achieving more than their uprising and that they are gaining more than the Sudanese people, despite the fact that their sacrifices are more than that made by their Algerian brethren. Therefore, this (among other reasons) leads us to believe that the Sudanese uprising will not end soon, and will not be satisfied after all these sacrifices with just a cabinet reshuffle that changes little.

The people know that the government staff and leaderships in their country, as is the case in many Arab countries, are merely decoration and that their authority and powers are no more than that of a local council. The people barely remember the names of their prime ministers and ministers.

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The Algerians and the Sudanese have ignited the feelings of popular and youth movements in several Arab countries and re-instated the Arab Spring as they decided to resume its uprisings and revolutions. This may prompt most Arab governments to watch the Algerian and Sudanese scenes closely with much concern and suspicion, as they recall the domino effect that spread the sparks of revolution from Tunisia to Cairo, passing through Damascus, Tripoli, Sanaa and other Arab cities and capitals. Since this was effective not too long ago, why can’t it remain so today and tomorrow?

This article first appeared in Arabic in Addustour on 15 March 2019

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.