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confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 2nd May 2019

El Sisi's authoritarian vanguard

Blue Lines

Protestors on the streets of Khartoum have taken up a new slogan: 'Victory or Egypt'. For them it's personal. Sudanese activists resented the collaboration between the two countries' elites. Both the current head of the junta, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Burhan and ousted leader Omer el Beshir went to military academy in Cairo. The new junta's first leader, Lt Gen Awad Ibn Auf, who lasted just a day in power, was at military academy with Egypt's President Abdul Fattah el Sisi.

Particularly irksome was President Sisi's buying more time for Sudan's junta after the African Union's Peace & Security Commission had set a 15-day deadline to hand over to civilian rule. Days earlier, Sisi won a referendum to change Egypt's constitution to allow him to stay in power until 2030. The spectre of Sisi's authoritarian regime – and the dimming of Egyptians' hopes after the 2011 revolt – haunts Sudan's activists.

Sisi typifies a new authoritarian wave, backing Khalifa Haftar's attack on Tripoli and nodding at the electoral carve-up in Congo-Kinshasa. In Tanzania and Burundi where elections are due next year, the opposition is being coopted and crushed. In Uganda, due to vote in 2021, the emphasis is on crushing; in Kenya, which votes the following year, co-option. For opposition parties, business-as-usual tactics are not working even against regimes mismanaging economies and stealing billions. That makes the protestors in Algeria and Sudan ever more relevant.