Armies should keep out of politics

Sunday April 14 2019

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir takes part in

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir takes part in a ceremony in hias honour upon his return from Ethiopa in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on July 30, 2016. AFP PHOTO  


Protesters in Khartoum, Sudan, are now at loggerheads with the country’s armed forces after their sit-in lasting months finally forced out long-serving president Omar al-Bashir.

The quarrel now unfolding between the Sudanese and their armed forces relates to how the army sought to handle the post-Bashir era, by among other things, cancelling the constitution of the country, declaring a state of emergency in the whole country for three months, and announcing that the army would manage a transition process that will run for two years.
The ‘important announcement” was made on Thursday by Sudan’s Defence Minister, Awad Ibn Auf, who had been installed as the leader of Sudan’s military council that now holds power.

A day later, after the protesters refused to accede to the pronouncements and kept their protest alive with the view of pushing their demands for liberal reforms through, the general stepped down in favour of Abdel Fattah Burhan, another general.

In his speeches after he declared that Bashir had been dismissed as leader of Sudan, Gen Awad emphasised the need for order, saying that the army needed to step in to enforce it, and that they would only leave power after it became clear that order had been restored.

No one can argue with the need for order in society, of course, and it is the army’s role to ensure that it does exist. But this cannot be the reason for the army to blackmail society in order to usurp power.

Countries maintain militaries to protect their territorial integrity and guarantee security for person and country. That is why citizens are taxed to invest in this very expensive venture.

But the force that armies are endowed with is to be governed by a civilian government, which is supposed to be put in place by the will of the people. In many countries, of course, this principle is abused and rulers use national armies to serve personal interests, a practice which is so widespread that it may appear like the normal practice. In this case, the military is supreme.

But, if you think about it, the societies that have prospered most and which most of us admire are those where civilian authority, as installed by the people, is supreme. This is the point the Sudanese protesters are belabouring.

Their efforts against Bashir’s government have been vulgarised by claims that they rose up because of lack of bread, but that can only have been a spark. They had deeper issues concerning how they were governed. This is what the army must understand and speedily work towards establishing a credible civilian government.