The Fall of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the ‘Spider’ at the Heart of Sudan’s Web

The Fall of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the ‘Spider’ at the Heart of Sudan’s Web

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A protest against the soaring price of bread in Atbara on Dec. 19 quickly spread to towns and cities across the country, in protests led by doctors and other professionals. Public anger grew as young doctors, some from wealthy families, were killed.

In January, Mr. al-Bashir contemptuously dismissed the protesters, telling the “rats to go back to their holes” and saying he would move aside only for another army officer, or at the ballot box.

But on the whole his forces reacted with relative restraint, killing dozens rather than hundreds of protesters. The demonstrations, often wildcat affairs in different Khartoum neighborhoods, turned into a daily occurrence.

On April 6, in their largest protest yet, demonstrators made it to the gates of Mr. al-Bashir’s home at the headquarters of the Sudanese army. The protest coincided with the anniversary of the 1985 uprising that toppled the regime of another unpopular Sudanese leader, the dictator Gaafar Nimeiry.

It was the start of the final push that led to his ouster on Thursday. His supposedly folksy touch had fully deserted him. The military and security leaders he fostered for years told him it was time to leave.

Like many military rulers, Mr. al-Bashir liked to claim that power had been foisted upon him, and that he wielded it reluctantly. “This country does not encourage anyone to enjoy power,” he said after he seized control in 1989. “This country is exhausted. It has collapsed and fallen.”

Critics say he left Sudan in much the same condition. Less clear, though, is whether his successors can change it quickly. The tattered economy needs a huge cash injection, and current conflicts in the Sudanese regions of Blue Nile or South Kordofan are unlikely to abate. Past uprisings, in the 1960s and 1980s, quickly saw a reversion to military control after a few years of erratic civilian rule.

“People want change, but Sudan’s problems are structural, not a matter of personality,” said Aly Verjee, an analyst at the United States Institute of Peace. “Even with Bashir gone, Sudan will not be healed overnight.”


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