The death of Dr. Mansour Khalid last week brings to close an end of an era that has dominated the country’s political scene for more than half a century through its various active figures. Dr. Khalid’s eventful life reflects in a way the erratic swings the country has been through. He caught the public eye through a series of articles condemning the political practices at the time that included dissolving the Communist Party and ejecting its members from the parliament. Then he joined the May regime led by Ja’far Nimeri, who shed its initial leftist tendencies and even sent the leaders of the Communist Party to the guillotine. Later he broke ranks with that regime and joined an armed rebel group, SPLM/A.
Almost two weeks earlier this month another figure passed away. That is Faroug Abu Eissa, who was one of the faces of the popular uprising of October 1964 and a key figure in the early days of the May regime. And four years ago Hasan al-Turabi, one of the influential figures in the country was laid to rest following his surprise death.
This is the generation that took over from the founding fathers. They have witnessed three military regimes and three popular uprisings. It was the era where its elite led by figures like the three mentioned above have pushed the country to swing left and right as the second coup led by Nimeri was highly influenced by the communists and the Nasserites and was replicating the experiences of the Free Officers movement in Egypt.
It did not take long for the right/conservative group within the elite class to stage its own coup under an Islamist agenda, thanks to the shrewd strategic and tactical moves adopted by El-Turabi that managed to turn a mere student movement into a heavy weight political one that was able to stage its own coup and retain power for three decades.
However, the track record of this elite class and its achievements over the years speaks for itself. The country was divided into two states, the economy is almost in free fall and despite its natural resources, but its people still find difficulty in making ends meet.
It is because of this deteriorating conditions and the inability of the traditional political forces to challenge the Ingaz regime that has lost any justification to remain in power that the December uprising erupted manned basically by youth and women and led by apolitical body the Professionals Association.
That does not mean, in effect, rupture with the past and start of a new era. It is a transitional era in another form. A leading figure like Sadig El-Mahdi, leader of the Umma Party, is still active. He is twice prime minister and the only one of that generation who is still a player, though question marks hang on to what extent his influence is intact or has been weakened. During the last multi party parliamentary elections in 1986 his party took almost all seats in greater Darfur region.
It is questionable whether the party can generate the same number of seats in forthcoming elections given the tumultuous period the region has been through over the past decades and the emergence of new local leadership with their own constituencies.
It is this transition between these two eras that will dictate the future of the country. So far the old political parties have not done well in terms of reorganization following years of suppression under the Ingaz, nor the new forces of women and youth were able so far to come up with a new political organizations or join old parties to enforce change.
Unlike the two transitional periods following the popular uprisings of 1964 and 1985, this transitional period will go on for three years, a time intended to dismantle the institutions of the defunct regime. However, though economic and security problems are daunting, but could be handled somehow, yet the big issue remains on how to handle the political transition into a new era.
Unfortunately there is no ready-made solution that could be resorted to fill the gap. Moreover, it is hoped that the current transitional period should lead to a sustainable democratic transformation, but such endeavor needs to be exercised and won from within the experience itself.
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