ALL through the night it went on, a terrifying crescendo of noise. Chanting, whistles, the thud and clatter of rocks hammering into walls and metal barricades and the ominous occasional pop, pop, sound of automatic weapons fire.

In the darkness, barricade bonfires and the occasional bursts of flame from petrol bombs hurled from buildings spilled across the street.

In the moments of light it was possible to make out the silhouettes of supporters of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Many rushed forward in yet another vain attempt to retake Tahrir Square from government opposition supporters who had turned the central Cairo landmark into the epicentre of their revolution.

As daylight broke, these same opposition supporters who had camped in the bitter cold overnight repelling the onslaught, rose to face another day of stand-offs and fighting. So too did the soldiers of the Egyptian army, whose tanks and personnel carriers sat in the square as calls for a crackdown against the opposition grew.

The opposition billed it as the “Day of Departure,” and as the early morning sounds of the muezzin’s call to prayer reverberated across the city, the calls for Mubarak to go also grew louder. “Down with the regime,” they chanted over and again.

Those were heady and violent days back in 2011 when I witnessed the overthrow of Mubarak. But they were also days too of hope for those who sought political change, as the early salvoes of the Arab Spring uprising reverberated in Egypt just as they had in Tunisia weeks before and would in the months to come from Libya to Yemen, Syria to Bahrain.

In the eight intervening years since those momentous times, many people have pronounced the hopes of the Arab Spring as being dead and buried.

They are lost, they say, to the likes of the military rule that now prevails in Egypt or the ruins of Syria’s cities obliterated in the civil war that followed the uprising there.

Then came those nine extraordinary days over the past week or so during which two of the Arab world’s most entrenched autocrats were deposed.

The National: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir left his position this weekSudanese President Omar al-Bashir left his position this week

In Algeria and in Sudan, the departures of presidents Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Omar al-Bashir, both of whom weathered the turmoil of 2011, has sent fresh shock waves across the Middle East and North Africa and given rise to talk of a new Arab Spring.

Those massive crowds we have seen on the television news lately clamouring in Khartoum for the removal of president al-Bashir of Sudan, so evoke the crowds that gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo or outside the Tunisian interior ministry eight years ago.

All of a sudden it appears that the popular uprisings of 2010-2011 were not the dead end many have portrayed them to be.

But is what we are witnessing in Khartoum and Algiers really the brewing of a new Arab Spring, and if so will the outcome be any different this time around?

According to Georges Fahmi, a research fellow on the Middle East programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RUSI), the straightforward answer to the first question is yes, even if the final outcome of these latest protests is as yet unknown.

“The 2011 Arab uprisings had four main characteristics: they were nationwide, sustained over time, political in nature and interconnected. This new wave of protests ticks all of these four boxes,” says Fahmi.

The National: Protests continued in Algeria after the president's departure Protests continued in Algeria after the president's departure

He highlights the fact that in both Sudan and Algeria, for example, the ongoing protests have spread across different cities, including the capital cities of Algiers and Khartoum. Also that the protesters have been able, so far, to sustain their activities for three months in Sudan and one month in Algeria.

“This wave has also gone beyond socio-economic grievances to develop clear political demands evidenced by its slogans; ‘just fall that is all’ in Sudan and ‘no to the fifth mandate’ in Algeria, as well as other slogans borrowed from 2011,” explains Fahmi.

For years leaders in countries like Sudan and Algeria have sought to stoke fear in their people and warned against such mobilisation in popular revolutions. The misery that ensued in places like Libya and Syria following the uprisings there in 2011 has also been invoked as a deterrent.

But what has become increasingly clear is that the root causes of these previous uprisings have not been addressed and continue to fester, making for a political timebomb among the populations of countries like Sudan and Algeria.

Across swathes of North Africa especially, regimes there have imposed austerity measures, cutting food, energy and fuel subsidies. And just as joblessness has soared so too has living costs.

Currently the Arab world has the world’s highest youth unemployment rate, with about 30% of 15 to 24-year-olds out of work.

The World Bank predicts that if current demographic trends persist, the Middle East and North Africa will need to create more than 300 million jobs by 2050.

Just to keep up with the region’s demographic bulge, the countries affected need to “create immediately” more than 10m jobs a year, it warns.

For the moment though what prevails in the lives of most people is a vicious cycle of being asked to do with less while political freedoms are increasingly restricted.

Faced with such challenges, lessons from the past and whether they are heeded now is what will determine the final outcome of the present uprisings.

The National: Military in SudanMilitary in Sudan

Activists in Sudan and Algeria all say they are fighting to escape the fates of the Arab states that rose up in 2011. All of those countries, except for Tunisia, have either plunged into chaos or reverted to authoritarianism.

How ironic it is that back in Egypt in 2011, Islamist activists worried openly about how to avoid what they called “the Algeria scenario.” Most being well aware that only 20 years earlier, Algerian generals had cancelled a parliamentary election to prevent an Islamist victory at the polls, and that for the next 10 years, the Algerian army and the Islamists fought a civil war that killed more than 100,000 people.

Now Algerians are acutely aware of the need to avoid the “Egyptian scenario”, whereby the army becomes the controlling body with all the repressive implications that could bring.

ALGERIA after all is an institutionalised, multi-party state, run by a military and economic elite. The elite know how to oppress the public, suppress criticism, lock up rivals and sometimes kill them, but are also aware of the public’s power.

When the moment came in the past few weeks to force President Bouteflika, pictured below, to resign, it was the army that pressured him to avoid confrontations with the public.

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In doing so of course the army allowed the elite to stay in power, something those on the streets of Algiers are determined should not persist. No point in getting rid of one authoritarian member of the old guard only to have him replaced by the country’s opaque circles of generals and businessmen goes the protesters’ thinking.

For years, Arab autocrats have relied on “social contracts” to maintain stability, in effect using state pay-offs funded by petrodollars set against limited political freedom and this could still prove a difficult cycle to break.

Some commentators and analysts remain sceptical that the current protesters are capable of ensuring this will happen.

“If anyone insists on calling the moves in Algeria and Sudan the second chapter of the Arab Spring, they will have to make do with seeing it as the Arab Spring of the army and elites wishing to defend themselves,” insisted Zvi Bar’el, correspondent for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz.

“The public’s awareness of its power was forged in the ‘original’ Arab Spring, and this may be the most significant achievement of these revolutions. But this awareness alone has not generated the real revolutions that will probably have to wait for another round,” Bar’el concluded in one of his columns over the past few days.

What’s certainly not in doubt though, is that what’s occurred over the past nine days in Algeria and Sudan has firmly knocked on the head the old racist concept that “Arabs are not ready for democracy, because they are Arab.”

“The notion that Arabs need dictators to rule over them is a convenient myth for bigots and their symbiotic relationships with autocrats who have poor views of their own people,” HA Hellyer, senior associate fellow at RUSI and the Atlantic Council was quoted in the UK press as saying over the last few days.

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“It has been proven wrong, again and again, and Algeria and Sudan, notwithstanding the vast diversity that exists in those countries, that are Arab but also African and have many identities, shows the shallowness of that myth,” argued Hellyer, as events rapidly unfolded in both countries.

And so for the time being Algeria and Sudan stand at a political crossroads. Where both countries go from here

largely depends on a combination of internal and external elements. Internally the behaviour of the army and security services in both will be crucial. Also too will be the question of leadership within the protest movement.

If there is one worrying parallel with the Arab Spring of 2011 in Algeria’s protests it’s that they lack any obvious leader. The mostly young protesters are a movement with no formal organisation, no recognisable representatives.

This was a fatal flaw back in 2011 in that it meant its supporters had nobody to negotiate a transition to a more democratic system or to manage the protesters’ expectations.

Externally meanwhile the outcome of the protests will also be determined by the response from the international community and in this respect there are clear differences with the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

The National: Cairo in 2011 during the uprisingsCairo in 2011 during the uprisings

It’s hard to see how this second wave of uprisings will gain the same support as that received by the first wave. Given the traumatic experience of the first wave, particularly in Libya and Syria, many Western policymakers will likely think twice before showing their support for political change in the region.

Also since 2011 right -ing parties have gained power in several Western countries, most notably in the US, which have prioritised issues of migration and counter terrorism at home over political freedom and human rights abroad.

Again looking back, Washington’s response to the Arab Spring of 2011 was one of the greatest foreign policy failures of President Barack Obama.

While his administration encouraged the ouster of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, when subsequent elections produced a government led by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood the Obama administration was lost for a response.

Indeed it said next to nothing too when the Egyptian army stepped in and put into the presidency the military chief, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Obama’s successor Donald Trump as we all know by now, has a penchant for so-called “strongmen.” On Thursday the State Department hailed the “historic moment” as Sudan’s al-Bashir was toppled, but appeared to be taken by surprise with a senior official just days earlier declining to describe the mounting protests as a “crisis.”

In both Sudan and Algeria, the US has only gently encouraged the two countries’ new military leaders to support democracy, voicing support for “the people.”

“For more than two years, the Trump administration has gutted America’s diplomatic tools to respond to the complicated political transitions unfolding in Sudan and Algeria, and his team has made freedom and democracy a much lower priority in America’s foreign policy agenda than any other US administration in recent memory,” warns Brian Katulis, senior fellow at the independent policy institute the Centre for American Progress.

Looking back now to those heady days of 2011 it’s easy to be sceptical of the potential for a successful outcome to the protests in Sudan and Algeria. What they have shown though is that citizens in North Africa and the Middle East are sick of tyranny and long to participate in the shaping of their own societies. Those citizens too have also learned lessons from mistakes made back then.

During the recent protests in Algeria, ordinary Algerians handed each other bottles of water and snacks, and cleaned the streets after themselves in gestures of civic pride. In Sudan, the protesters elevated women to leadership positions within the crowds and across both protests there was a spirit of non-violence.

It’s clear that the aspirations that surged to the surface right across the Middle East and North Africa early in 2011 have not been killed off. The Arab Spring without doubt is definitely being revisited.