Under popular pressure, both Algeria and Sudan are in turmoil. But there is no compass for direction. In Algeria, what majority will replace the FLN (National Liberation Front) quasi-state? In Sudan, what political or military formation will succeed General Omar Hassan El Bashir semi-Islamist regime? In addition to domestic changes, these momentous upheavals will have impacts on the Maghreb region and also elsewhere, especially in the Sahel!
<< Latest developments. In the coming days and weeks, the situation in the Sahel Sahara should be marked by two important, though unrelated, events.
First, the death of Tunisia first democratically elected president, Beji Caid Essebsi. An experienced and able leader, he has been smart enough to help Tunisians, especially women, to retake back their country away from the risks of a civil war. Tunisia was back again on the right path and Caid Essebsi elected successor should confirm and reinforce that trend. To show that they do pursue a coherent anti-terrorist policy, the EU and the USA, among others, should bring a timely massive assistance to Tunis.
Second, On 2 August Mauritania should swear in a new president, Mohamed Ould Ghazwani. From his family background and upbringing as well as his professional experience, the future president is a source of many hopes from within and from outside the country. Internal and external relations should improve greatly at least in manners and styles. Mauritanians, their neighbors and friends should give Ould Ghazwani a well-deserved honeymoon. Evidently, the retiring President, Ould Abdel Aziz, should benefit from his constitutional rights.
Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, President Centre4s.>>
By assumption, it could be asserted that in Algeria, the future ruling class should, finally be younger, fresher in its governance and less eager for anti-colonial diatribes, long the trademark of the FLN and the various social groupings that benefit from the Liberation struggle.
In Sudan, the same issues – political renewal and implementation of transparency in the management of public affairs – should be observed. In both cases, demand for more democracy and equity among citizens will be a priority. Another expected development is the possible loosening of the religious grasp on the populations lives and a favorable trend to improving their living conditions.
However, all this is only the home front.
In the region and elsewhere, the effects of these regime changes are likely to abound, at leisure. Many fires, suggested, ignited or maintained by the two regimes – departing or at least in difficulty – could die out or end of their own death.
Morocco could benefit from this evolution towards Mohamed VI’s subjects as a younger Algerian leadership is lesser anti Moroccan than the older. As a reminder, the border between the two countries has been closed since 1994 and the two heads of state last saw each other in 2005 … King of Morocco’s call, in November 2018, for a « frank and direct dialogue », going beyond disputes, did not have an echo in Algiers. The reopening of their common border could be the first manifestation of the good will of a new regime towards its neighbor. Business would resume more flourishing, far from the uncertainty of the various smugglings. A new era, in relations between the two countries, would open. As a result, the so painful and so delicate issue of Polisario would find an acceptable solution for all its protagonists.
The paralysis of the Arab Maghreb Union should heal, stimulating regional cooperation. Since President Houari Boumediene, Algeria accuses Morocco of « rotting the Algerian youth with drugs. » This recurrent accusation would disappear after frank discussions and co-operative clarifications measures.
With the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, relations could improve in the areas of economy, trade and investment.
More sensitive is Algeria relationship with France and the G 5 Sahel countries, who suspect Algeria to be the backbone and backer of a number of leading chiefs of the terrorist groupings that are operating in the area. Relations between Algeria, on the one hand, and Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger on the other, would then change for the better.
Insecurity in the Sahel would then take on new clothes, perhaps less deadly.
In the field of migration, a more open dialogue would be initiated between Algeria and the sub-Saharan countries whose nationals are occasionally expelled in conditions that are likely to improve, being more humane.
Algerian oil revenues would be less used to funding a costly diplomacy since the 1970s, according to which, from North to South of the continent, « no major decision can be taken without consulting Algeria. » The diplomatic war between the two neighbors, for the moment in favor of Algeria, is prolonged in the rest of Africa. In return, Morocco is networking countries south of the Sahara, through strategic and sustainable investments: banking, insurance, application for membership of ECOWAS, etc. Many doors, long closed, could finally open.
Sudan, an improvement?
As for Sudan, seen as a powder barrel and accused of nameless atrocities, among others, in Darfur and Kordofan, a form of official repentance could be one of the pillars for its own survival as a nation. Its weapons factories and other laboratories, supposedly of massive destruction, still frighten neighboring countries. It’s begging for Gulf States petrodollars in connection to islamization should be reduced, in favor of a more rational cooperation.
Ethiopia, fully exploiting the aura of its young Prime Minister, Abi Ahmed, is trying to rush into this wide gap, opened by the popular uprising. Through its mediation between an uprising population and a murderous Junta, it intends to preserve its rear or the Nile that dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam once said was not « an Arab lake ». The success of its intrusion would lead Sudan to be more « understanding » in sharing the said waters between the two protagonists and Egypt.
Despite its serious internal difficulties, South Sudan is lying in ambush, ready to exploit any weakness of the future regime to renegotiate the terms for the transport of its crude oil, via pipelines winding its former twin country.
Chad could also rise further in the region, given the immediate disorder of its eastern neighbor. The Central African Republic coughs, when Sudan sneezes, due to the involvement of the latter in signing agreements to pacify the former. Various traffics constitute another string between the two countries.
Libya becomes a greater danger and sees its fragility worsening, because of the events in Sudan: a padlock momentarily disabled. According to reliable sources, all of North Africa would be infiltrated by armed jihadists that left Idleb in northern Syria. From Libya, they can operate in these countries and in sub-Saharan Africa.
With its Marshall President at the helm, Egypt argues all over with a strong point – the country is a better held state than the vacillating Sudan. In late 2018, Sudan closed its border with Eritrea and announced a state of emergency in two of its eastern provinces, deploying thousands of troops in that area. Khartoum accused Eritrea, allegedly backed by Egypt, of wanting to intervene on its territory and even to prepare the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir. In order to strengthen its defense, the same Eritrea has become closer to the United Arab Emirates, thus marking the depth of the strategic relations between the two countries. In response, Sudan has moved closer to Qatar and Turkey. The coming of Turkey on the shores of the Red Sea does not enchant Egypt, which knows its close relationships with the Muslim Brotherhood. That movement leader, Mohamed Morsi, elected president in 2012 but overthrown and jailed by the Marshal Abdel Fatah Al-Sissi, in 2013, died abruptly in prison, on June 17th. Judging that death suspicious, Turkey has asked for an international investigation.
With the demise of Al Bashir, one can assume that these tensions and conflicts will fester further.
To summarize, it seems that the current crises in Algeria and Sudan, made much happier ones than orphans. Furthermore, in the end, the eradication of serious threats such as terrorism, requires the democratization of the Maghreb and the Sahel.
Jean Marie Pouya,
for centre4s, consultant / journalist.