Saudi influence on the fate of Khartoum.
Riyadh, together with the United Arab Emirates, is determining the decisions of the Sudanese military junta and blocking the transition
A considerable portion of the Arab world is in chaos. Its political, social and economic instability as well as the security situation have worsened in the last decade. The reasons for this chaos are to be found especially in the chronic geopolitical alliances involving regional and international powers. The problem weighs heavily on the present and
future of the African continent.
Tunisia is still today in a limbo of uncertain transition. Egypt is in the hands of a military regime which recently changed the Constitution in order to consolidate the power of the president, General al-Sisi.
Libya is at the mercy of a fratricidal war caused by the NATO intervention of 2011. Algeria is in ferment and it is hard to see a way out of the crisis, given the overwhelming role of the military in whose hands the reins of power rest.
For some months now, Sudan has also been in the spotlight following the revolt that led to the fall of General Omar El-Bashir. The demonstrations in Khartoum and in other cities were manipulated by the military to carry out a coup d’état (El-Bashir himself came to power in 1989 as the result of a putsch). Today, and until further notice, the military junta led by General Abdel Fattah Burhan is in power.
Behind his coming to power is the secret help of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, countries united in an alliance under the regional umbrella led by the Saudis in opposition to the alliance composed of Qatar and Turkey. Sudan has always been the scene of ideological conflict between these two poles.
El-Bashir adopted a flexible strategy which he adopted in line with his interests. In the past, for ideological reasons, he was allied with Qatar which supports the Muslim Brotherhood whose Sudanese branch was supported by the former regime of El-Bashir who, however, had recently become closer to Saudi Arabia.
Since 2015 Sudan has been taking part in a war against Yemen with more than ten thousand military personnel. In exchange, the al-Saud promised it financial aid amounting to five million dollars, only a small part of which has been disbursed. It is important to emphasise that General Abdel Fattah Burhan was formerly commander of the Sudanese troops in the Yemen. Just a coincidence? Burhan had already been to Riyadh on 30 May last, as President of the transitional Military Council, to receive the ‘blessing’ of the Saudis (five days previously, he had been received by al-Sisi in Cairo).
Following the coup, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates allocated 3 billion dollars to Sudan. But El-Bashir was also doing business with Turkey. In 2017 he granted a concession to Ankara, for 99 years, of the Suakin peninsula on the Red Sea. It is a strategic location, close to the Saudi coast, which the Turks might use as a military base.
For the present, it seems that the pole led by Saudi Arabia – with the blessing of the White House – dominates the Sudanese scene and may have considerable influence on the future of that country. It is of little consequence that in the squares of Khartoum and elsewhere women and children protest against Saudi interference in their affairs and want the Sudanese troops withdrawn from the Yemen.
Mostafa El Ayoubi