Saudi Arabia’s malleable plans for Sudan
Saudi Arabia has been steadily increasing its economic and political influence on Sudan, and the fall of Al Bashir’s government did not change that. When the new government was formed, Saudi Arabia deposited $250 million into the central bank of Sudan to support its financial position.
Furthermore, RSF leader Mohamed Daglo is a trusted friend and an ally of Saudi Arabia. In May 2019, Daglo met with the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and assured him of continued cooperation with Saudi Arabia in their ongoing war in Yemen. However now, as Saudi Arabia finds terms with the Houthis, questions have arisen over what Saudi Arabia’s intentions are in Sudan.
The nation’s investment in Sudan has continued, as Saudi Arabia will lend Sudan SAR487m ($130m) to support education and health services, Sudan’s government said, the latest assistance from the kingdom since the North African nation’s army ousted long-time leader Omar al-Bashir in April. The Saudi Fund for Development will provide the loan, the Finance Ministry said Tuesday in a statement.
The continued funding could be a continuation of what proved to be a useful tool in Yemen, the guarantee of manpower and military support from Sudan in the event of any Saudi military conflict.
Fear of losing grip of Sudan?
In what could either a worrying development for Saudi Arabia, or part of their planned withdrawal from Yemen, Sudan’s prime minister said on Sunday Khartoum had reduced the number of troops it has in Yemen from a peak of 15,000 to 5,000, confirming a drawdown in a conflict which he said could not be solved militarily.
Sudan has been one of the main contributors to the so-called Saudi coalition against Yemen, formed in 2015 in a bid to install a pro-Saudi government in Sana’a and crush Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement. According to reports, up to 40,000 Sudanese troops were deployed in the country during the peak of the conflict in 2016-2017.
“Regarding Yemen, we said that there is no military solution and there must be a political solution,” Hamdok told reporters at a briefing following his trip to Washington. Sudan has appeared to take the stance of withdrawal like the UAE, which Saudi Arabia has not taken, possibly forcing the recent diplomatic surge from Saudi Arabia, to ensure their interests are intact.
UAE laying a rival claim
The UAE has built very strong diplomatic ties with the new Sudan government, with ties possibly even stronger than between Sudan and Saudi Arabia.
The UAE has once again flexed its geopolitical muscle, as the prospects for accelerating cooperation between the UAE and Sudan at the energy and industrial levels were reviewed by Suhail bin Mohammed Faraj Faris Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Industry, at his meetings with the Chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and Prime Minister Dr Abdalla Hamdok in Khartoum. This came as Al Mazrouei led a UAE economic delegation comprised of government and private sectors’ officials in a two-day visit to Sudan where they explored paths of cementing bilateral relations in areas of trade, investment, energy, mining, electricity, infrastructure and agriculture.
They also mulled over the possibility of establishing industrial facilities and joint free zones in furtherance of the two countries’ economic agendas. Additionally, the UAE continues to work with the Sudanese government to achieve Sudan’s development and help it overcome challenges while enabling it to surpass its current crisis and create a better future by introducing necessary reforms in a process that requires the concerted efforts of all partners.
This has already started, as last week, The UAE pledged Dh55 million in financial aid to help hundreds of thousands of pupils across Sudan look forward to a brighter future. The UAE has big plans for Sudan that could overshadow that of Saudi Arabia in the future, in what is shaping to be a Gulf scramble for North Africa.