Repression is one of the basic instruments brutal dictators use to overstay in power. Although many of us tend to associate repression with torture, imprisonment, killings and disappearances. But, these brutal practices are not the only repressive tools at the disposal of Dictators. Dictators use other mechanisms such as restrictions on basic individuals’ civil liberties and fair political competition between individuals or parties. In the case of Sudan, for example, Omar al Bashir restored to intensified political terror to crush his political opponents. In South Sudan, however, President Salva Kiir who served for decades as a Military Officer and his SPLM party resorted to strong-handedness/bullying tactics, and managed to win the so-called 2010 “election” that allowed him to retain limitless control over state institutions.
Indeed, there is abundant evidence confirming the ambition of both Omar Al-Bashir (now deposed through a popular uprising) and Kiir to stay in power forever. The limitless control use of not only repressive instruments by these military regimes, but also the exclusion of the larger segment of the population from political participation and decision-making are. Additionally, the use of coercion has diminished the political legitimacy of both despots over time and created severe political resentment against them by the civil population in both countries.
Most recently, Khartoum was paralyzed by waves of protests against Bashir’s 30-years rule, and his security forces’ brutal crackdown on the popular uprising failed to crush the anti-regime nonviolent protests championed by the Sudanese Professionals Association and opposition parties in the context of ‘bread’ politics. This led to al-Bashir’s fall!
While Bashir’s long brutal rule has left majority of ordinary Sudanese citizens in a dire socioeconomic state that exacerbated his downfall and ouster from power last week, Kiir’s exclusive, corrupt and failed regime created a bloody civil war in South Sudan that is continuing unabated.
Even though Kiir has survived the ongoing bloody conflict, he has not been able to crush various armed opposition groups fighting against his regime. So far President Kiir has managed to hold his grip on power. However, the ongoing violent repression in the country is likely to result in increased public dissent, leading to tensions and defections from the so-called national army turning their back on the regime. Such a development may lead to more bloodshed, anti-regime protests and possibly his ouster from power someday. The recent cases of Sudan and Gambia, where junior military officers decided against using violent crackdown on the protesters illustrate this point.
Historically, most revolutionary leaders who survive wars usually tend to maintain themselves in power using instruments of repression to achieve this end. However, by any measure, a suppressive regime like that of South Sudan cannot survive for many years in power simply because of its unimpressive socioeconomic development records.
In the meantime, suppression may benefit Kiir and keep him in power for a few more years, but the honeymoon is unlikely to last long due to other competing centers of power within the state such as “Gun Class” and Jieng Council of Elders (JCE), as well as the regime’s poor human rights record and bad leadership.
In sum, these contrasting examples clearly illustrate that repression does not work or help autocrats like Kiir to last in power forever.