x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Shaky economy should help opposition

A year after Sudan divided, the northern government can't improve the economy, and that means more political trouble, a commentator says. Other topics: Syrian defections and a Tunisian arrest.

Dire economy in Sudan should help opposition to mobilise the public against the regime

It was once thought that the separation of the South would earn the Sudanese regime more time to fix the political situation, but one year into the split things have only gone from bad to worse, Khalil Hussein argued in an opinion article in the UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

The separation has revealed even more structural issues, and after one year of southern independence, the conflict has escalated once again. But this time the infighting has turned into a clash between two countries, each with a different style of crisis management.

"The worst thing is that both regimes have been found to suffer a hard-to-solve structural problem," the writer noted.

Some say Khartoum has actually joined the Arab uprising, and that that might lead to some major transformations.

The opposition sees the government's lack of vision when it comes to finding a way out of the economic decline as a basic political failure.

Among the major problem was miscalculation over the effect of the separation; the lack of political judgement over the referendum result that developed into a war between Sudan and South Sudan in Abyei and Heglig.

Other factors are the world's concerns about the caretaker government's Islamist background, and the Darfur war that began in February 2003.

Against this backdrop, popular protests erupted in June, first calling for reform but later turning into full-scale demands to bring down the regime. The opposition was then able to achieve some important gains, breaking the fear barrier and promoting its programme among the masses.

"But there are many weak and strong points in both the government and the opposition. Therefore, the future of the protest movement is contingent on these points, and on the extent of push-and-pull between the two parties in managing the continuing crisis."

The dire economic situation provides the best means by which the opposition can win over the street, a task that will be made easier by the vulnerabilities of the regime.

First, the government consists of 15 parties. Next comes the increasing distrust towards the government and its policies, and then the wars on the Ethiopian and South Sudanese borders.

And Sudan, like many other countries, is beset by a lack of human rights and basic liberties.

The government is counting on economic progress to cushion the blow for people, but most of these hopes are not appropriate, because the caretaker government faces immense obstacles. So the popular protest, expected to gain momentum, will have the last word on change.

The Sudanese people toppling a military regimes in 1964 and another in 1985. "Will they do it again? The Sudanese grassroots have the answer."

Defections reveal a regime losing its grip

The defection of people of different ranks and sects from the Syrian regime show that it is losing its grip on power, columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed opined in London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat yesterday.

More and more deserters have been fleeing the Syrian army and security forces. Three ambassadors have announced their defections, and other high-profile officials are believed fearful of reprisals against their families if they announce their true views.

The latest major military defector was Manaf Tlass, once a general in the Republican Guard and one of President Bashar Al Assad's confidants.

"It seems Syrian intelligence is losing control over senior military and political officials," the writer noted. "Everybody was surprised during he Friends of Syria meeting in Paris at the participation of newly defected military and political leaders."

Hundreds of Syrians are leaving Syria every day through Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, while ammunition and humanitarian aid is smuggled into Syria across the Turkish borders. In fact, only Russia and China's vetoes at the UN Security Council protect the regime.

"The regime is under siege from every direction," the writer asserted. "Protests have reached the heart of Damascus, and some areas are now completely under the control of armed revolutionaries."

Mother's arrest means nothing has changed

It is a curious irony that 18 months after the Tunisian revolution, the mother of Mohammed Bouazizi, the street vendor whose self-immolation sparked the protests that pushed Zine El Abidine Ben Ali out of power, has been remanded in custody, wrote Tariq Al Homayed in the London-based Asharq Al Awsat.

It began when Manoubia Bouazizi argued with a clerk of the court while trying to complete procedures to receive the government compensation provided to families of the revolution's martyrs. Now she faces charges of "insulting a public official during the performance of his duties".

"How could this happen?" the writer wondered. "The answer is simple: the Arab citizen, today, does not care a hoot about what politicians and ideologues say."

Citizens simply want their basic demands met; they need health care, good education, sustenance and, above all, respect. But these simple demands seem to go unheeded by the people who took the stage in the countries swept up by the Arab Spring.

Power-grabbers have lost it to power-seekers. The proof: the Arab Spring countries are still plagued by power struggles, constitution-drafting is still being debated, and each group is after its piece of the pie.

Meanwhile, people's needs go undiscussed, the writer noted.

* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni