Is Omar Al-Bashir an offender or a victim?

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The arrest and ouster of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir has brought his 30-year reign to an end. In the military statement read out by Defense Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, the phrase used was the “toppling of the regime.” He added that Bashir had been arrested and was in a safe place. According to media reports, a large hoard of cash was found at the home of Bashir that included millions in US dollars, euros and other foreign currencies.

Investigations are ongoing against Bashir on charges of money laundering and illegal possession of large sums of foreign currency. Protests erupted against Bashir’s regime a few months ago over a government decision to end subsidies and a subsequent sharp rise in bread prices. The unrest quickly escalated into nationwide demonstrations in a country already grappling with regular shortages of essential goods.

As is widely known, Omar Al-Bashir, who was an officer in the Sudanese army, led a military coup three decades ago against the elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq Al-Mahdi. He captured power unlawfully and with the force of arms, citing unacceptable justifications. Justifying his coup, Bashir described himself as a savior. But it was quite unknown, saving whom from what? People thought that Omar Al-Bashir would follow in the ideal footsteps of General Abdel Rahman Suwar Al-Dahab, who launched a coup ousting President Gaafar Nimeiry, ending his dictatorship. Nimeiry seized power and oppressed the country until he was ousted by the people. Subsequently, Al-Dahab became the chairman of the transitional military council, which supervised the general elections and surrendered power to the elected civilian government, led by Sadiq Al-Mahdi.

On the other hand, Bashir came to power after staging a coup against an elected government. As usual, Bashir announced, in cooperation with small parties and failed political figures, that he would save the country from corruption and mismanagement. He called himself and those associated with him the Salvation Front. Over the past three decades, Bashir imposed himself on the country with the strength of the military as well as with the strength of its weapons and military methods. He claimed to have converted his failures into successes in achieving development, and to have scored victories in the fields of civil wars and regional conflicts.

Bashir resorted to security solutions in conflicts, but if he had left them to politicians, they might have found political solutions to these problems, especially the conflict that existed between the northern and southern parts of Sudan. Such an initiative could have led to addressing the demands of the south by negotiating their issues in a peaceful manner, but Bashir’s military government brought things to the point of no return, which ended with a referendum in the south, the result of which was known beforehand. And eventually the failed military rule was instrumental in Sudan losing its southern half. This has encouraged secessionist movements elsewhere to demand independence, leading to more oppression and the use of military force that has neither brought about a solution to any of the problems nor put an end to corruption.

During the reign of Field Marshal Omar Al-Bashir, there were demands from political parties and the forces of the Sudanese civilian society to grant freedom to political parties and to hold free and fair elections that would give the Sudanese people the right to elect who governs them. But Bashir and his Salvation Front considered that they had the right to rule. They also considered that oppressing all those who opposed them was also one of their rights. At the time of contesting elections, Bashir always announced that he would not run for the next election and that he would give the opportunity to young people. However, just before approaching the date of the election, he would declare that under the enormous pressure of the cadres of the ruling party, he decided to run for the election so as to complete the march of development, as well as to save the country from the dangers that surrounded it.

And when the revolution erupted and the masses started demanding the exit of the regime led by Bashir, he went out with sticks dancing along with his supporters. At the same time, he reiterated that any change would be brought about through the ballot box, forgetting that he did not come to power through the ballot box, but rather on the back of tanks, and that he had usurped power from an elected government that had legally come to power through the ballot box.

It is also to be noted that the military in Sudan as in the case of some other countries entered a field, which was not actually theirs, leaving behind their original duty of defending the borders of their country. Instead, they assumed the role of politicians and players in power games and then failed to deliver when they seized power.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com


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