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Sudan's Democratic Experiment: Present Crisis and Future Prospects Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil The graceful and dignified manner in which the Sudan gained independence in 1956, after a determined but non-convulsive, nonsanguinary struggle, made it a cynosure in the post-world war Third World, the majority of which still continued to groan under the yoke of imperialism. When the country quietly proceeded to develop the relics of the colonial structure of authoritarian administration, into a democratic form of government it offered a precedence which was coveted by many African countries. The peoples' love for freedom was further demonstrated by rising in two civilian revolutions to overthrow military dictatorships in 1964 and, two decades later, in 1985. That glorious image has now, alas, undergone a pitiable transmutation. In the sight of a world that has made what appears to be an irreversible journey toward constitutional liberalism, the Sudan is a country in which fundamental human rights are shamelessly violated by a fundamentalist, military regime which has not simply usurped political power by a coup d'etat but which is ideologically disdainful of democracy as a form of government. The tragic story of the ups and downs of the democratic experiment in the Sudan's half century of independence is at once too long and too complicated to be told in detail here. Therefore, this article will highlight only the aspects that may help toward an objective evaluation of the main underlying causes of the failure of the experiment and perhaps shed some light on realistically feasible future prospects. Pedantic as it may sound, and redundant as it may seem at first sight, it may be useful to begin with an attempt to define the term. We are┬źNortheast African Studies (ISSN 0740-9133) Vol. 1, Nos. 2-3 (New Series) 1994, pp. 103-117 103 104 Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil only too familiar with the deceptive practice of adopting the terminology , and simulating the form of, democratic institutions in a vain attempt to give the appearance of legality to usurpation of political power. When Mohammad Ayyub Khan wanted to solidify his rule in the wake of the abrogation of the democratic constitution of Pakistan he created a system oflocal government councils whose members voted him as president . That voting was referred to as "referendum" and the local councils system was given the grand title of "basic democracies." Jaafar Mohamed Nimeiri, a few years later, went even further. Having abrogated a democratic constitution, he cynically rechristened the country the "Democratic Republic of the Sudan." Such brazen proclamations may be readily dismissed as the naked pretenses and subterfuge of dictators . But a close scrutiny of some proposals for the sharing of political power in a future democratic Sudan would suggest that it is pertinent and unavoidable to begin with a definition of "democracy." Democracy Defined The term has been given various definitions which, share certain basic concepts. While laying different emphases they seem to center on a limited number of components: periodic, general elections for the election of representatives; a liberal constitution; and the existence of political parties. Schumpeter considers a crucial point to be the power of the people to periodically change the executive head of government. Lipset lays emphasis on the choice of representatives for legislative and executive offices through free elections in which the majority take part. The Encyclopedia Britannica's essay on democracy regards the existence of political parties as a necessary component; and Dahl stresses the importance of equal opportunities for all citizens to compete for governmental participation, and of voting equality in the decisive stage of election. By combining the various components, democracy may be defined as: a system that guarantees the right of the individual through direct, universal suffrage in free, periodic general elections, to offer himself as a candidate, and to choose between freely competing candidates for legislative and executive positions of government within the framework of a constitution which guarantees, and offers adequate protection of, the fundamental rights of equality and Sudan's Democratic Experiment: Present Crisis and Future Prospects 105 freedom of belief, expression, movement, and association and inviolability ofbody, mind, and property. Roofs of the Crisis: Four Operative Factors With this definition serving...


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