Days after a recent military coup, the upheaval in Sudan continues to take unexpected turns.
At the end of last week, Sudanese authorities announced that long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir had finally been removed from power. Bashir, who is the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) alleging war crimes in Darfur, ruled Sudan for over thirty years.
The old dictator had ruled Sudan with an iron fist during his three decades in power. After four months of mass protest campaigns in the country —which saw the deaths of dozens of activists— Defense Minister Awad Ibn Auf announced on state television that Bashir had been deposed and an interim government had been put in place.
Initially the Sudanese seemed to have deposed one despotic regime for another. Made up of all Bashir’s old officials, the new government immediately declared a state of emergency, nullified Sudan’s constitution, and declared a countrywide curfew of 10:00 p.m.
Now, however, a glimmer of hope exists that Sudan may actually be able to transition to normalcy. As the weekend came to an end, reports came out that Ibn Auf had stepped down. A lesser known military leader, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan Abdelrahman announced that he had been chosen to take over leadership. In a welcomed change, Abdelrahman adopted a much more conciliatory tone. He annulled many of the restrictions put in place just days before by Ibn Auf and vowed to “up root” any remnant of the Bashir regime.
Besides his softer approach, there is another very important reason why Abdelrahman’s appearance is a very positive development. Abdelrahman was the third most senior general in the Sudanese armed forces and headed Sudan’s ground forces. In this position, he oversaw Sudanese troops fighting in the Saudi-led Yemen war and has close ties to senior Gulf military officials. With the former general in charge, Sudan is in a position to become an important regional partner with African and Middle Eastern nations, while at the same time being ruled over by a man who seems to have firmly rejected despotism.