Suliman Baldo: “Sudan and Ethiopia are the two sick men of the Horn of Africa”

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Born in Sudan, Suliman Baldo is an analyst for The Sentry, a Washington investigative team that tracks dirty money linked to war criminals and war profiteers in Africa. He has worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and countries in the Horn of Africa, and studied continent-wide human rights and politics issues with Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group and the International Center for Transitional Justice.

Since the coup d’état in Sudan on October 25, the protest movement has suffered violent repression. In Ethiopia, the civil war threatens to degenerate. Who is the sick man from the Horn of Africa: Sudan or Ethiopia?

Both are sick, but for different reasons. The evil in Sudan comes mainly from the regular army, which has mainly fought against civilians through collective punishments against populations from which armed movements or protest groups originate. She also has political ambitions. Whenever a democratic regime has been established, the military has overthrown it in a coup. The Sudanese, who are very attached to democracy, had to rise up three times since independence in 1965 to get rid of these military regimes, before they were imposed again by force a few years later.

Is the current popular movement likely to succeed?

It is an organized, motivated movement, attached to the principle of peaceful resistance. Thus, the “steps of the million” [de personnes] start at the same time in all cities, answer the same calls, with very clear requests. The protest is coordinated by young people, via social networks, according to a non-hierarchical, horizontal organization that is difficult to suppress.

Are we not on the verge of reaching the limits of this form of protest and seeing demonstrators go into armed struggle?

It’s a possibility. Abdel Fattah Al-Bourhane’s regime [à la tête de la junte] has no popular, political or social base. He relies on heterogeneous allies: loyalists of the Omar Al-Bashir regime [dictateur à la tête du pouvoir islamiste, pendant trente ans, renversé en 2019], ex-armed movements in the Darfur region, and the military who want to exercise what they consider to be their divine right to run the country. This group can only maintain power by using extreme force. Faced with the ferocity of repression, there is therefore a real risk that the peaceful movement will become violent. I hope this is not inevitable. Young people are aware that peaceful popular revolts are more likely to succeed against dictatorships than armed resistance.

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Suliman Baldo: “Sudan and Ethiopia are the two sick men of the Horn of Africa”