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After Bashir

How Sudan Can Heal From Decades of Dictatorship

Bashir in Khartoum, Sudan, April 2019 Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah / Reuters

Since the movement that has come to be known as the “Sudan Uprising” ignited in December 2018, little has been heard or seen of Omar al-Bashir, the man who ruled the country with an iron fist for almost 30 years. On April 11, after four months of ever-larger protests, he was deposed in a bloodless coup. At first the regime said little about his location, though reports suggested that he was being held in the presidential palace in Khartoum. Rumors circulated that Bashir negotiated his own exit with former Defense Minister Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, the leader of the coup, to ensure that he would not be sent to the International Criminal Court. But whatever guarantees Bashir extracted proved short-lived: under pressure from protesters, the military ejected Ibn Auf after only one day in power and replaced him with Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan.

The new regime has reportedly moved Bashir to Kobar prison, a notorious maximum-security facility in Khartoum. Thousands of political prisoners were detained and tortured at Kobar during Bashir’s long reign of terror. Whether his tenure there will match the length frequently doled out to his political opponents is unclear; Bashir’s future, like that of the country, remains opaque.

The uncertainty surrounding Bashir since he was toppled is, in a way, expected. Bashir remains one of the most inscrutable dictators felled during Africa’s long third wave of protest, which began around 2008, crested in 2011, and gained renewed strength in just the past two years. Unlike Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the former president of Algeria who was overthrown just weeks before Bashir and with whom he is forever fused in the popular imagination, Bashir never inspired loyalty within Sudan. Nor did the international community view him as much of a leader, even though he clung to power for so long.

Bashir’s ideological inconsistency and willingness to forge opportunistic partnerships allowed him to remain in power by exploiting the broader crisis of leadership and nationalism in Sudan.

Bashir’s inscrutability was

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