longstanding business, military and political interests in the country prior to the crisis in 2017. In June of that year, Saudi Arabia, the , and — known as the quartet — cut diplomatic and trade relations with .has been at the center of the diverging interests of wealthy states for many years. Having been close allies of former President Omar al-Bashir, Saudi Arabia, the United Emirates and had
Mohammed bin Salman’s Neom: A Case of Giga-Narcissism
After almost four years of severed ties, reconciliation in January led to the subsequent lifting of the against and the formal restoration of relations. The resolution of the dispute is a positive regional development. However, it remains fragile because the issues that sparked the rift in the first place were never resolved.
It is therefore unlikely that thereconciliation will usher in a new beginning or bring about a return to pre-crisis normalcy. Deep-rooted mistrust between the countries, ongoing rivalries between them, divergence in their policies and geostrategic competition in Africa could trigger the next diplomatic crisis among member states of the Cooperation Council (GCC).
Sudan’s Attempt to Play All Sides
Most downgraded ties with .and sub-Saharan African states tried to resist pressure to join the anti- coalition and delicately maneuver their way into neutrality. These states were uneasy about their move because they feared that the quartet would use their economic might against them. As a result, some African states cut or
Financial influence in Africa has helped capitalize on their geostrategic location, increase their food security and advance their diplomatic and security goals. By offering substantial economic incentives, they have been able to bolster peace agreements between warring factions. Some have achieved notable success, growing influence and African allies that support their policies. is a case in point. In 2019, Saudi investments in were estimated at $12 billion, the at $7 billion and at $4 billion, as per the Bureau of Statistics.
Due to Saudi Arabia’s large investments, supported the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen in 2015 by deploying Rapid Support Forces and severing diplomatic ties with Iran. However, Bashir’s relationship with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi began stalling in the last few years of his rule. As part of the and Saudi Arabia’s regional efforts to counter what they considered political Islam, Bashir was expected to root out Islamists in . However, since Islamists were deeply engrained in Sudan’s government, he could not risk alienating them and did not oblige.
Theleader’s reaction to the rift was not surprising. Historically, he cooperated with all regional powers, never fully aligning with any of them. His hands-off approach and ability to easily switch from the role of an army leader to an advocate of political Islam, enabled to simultaneously ally with rival GCC camps. It seems that Bashir’s key goal was to benefit economically from all states.
Sudan Under the New Transitional Government
Unfortunately for Bashir, Sudan’s economy collapsed, nationwide protests erupted in December 2018 and none of his allies came to his rescue. The were probably influenced by growing uncertainty regarding Bashir’s future. Their goal was to protect their investments, not Bashir. Without GCC financial support, the president found his days in power numbered.
In April 2019, Saudi Arabia and the military coup that ended three decades of Bashir’s rule and led to the creation of a (TMC). The GCC duo promptly promised a staggering $3 billion in aid to support the TMC. However, growing international pressure pushed the TMC to sign a power-sharing agreement with Sudan’s pro-democracy movement. The TMC transferred power to a sovereignty council for a transitional period. Elections to usher in a civilian-led government are planned in late 2023 or early 2024.backed a
Saudi Arabia and the support to . In return, the TMC has supported their war efforts in Yemen and, more recently, in Libya.have vested interests in backing the military and ensuring it maintains control of the political transition. Consequently, they continue to offer economic and humanitarian
After the 2019 revolution, cut ties with , accusing it of supporting Islamists. had a close relationship with Bashir’s former ruling National Congress Party that drew the ire of the TMC. However, has since rebuilt its influence by supporting Sudan’s removal from the US list of State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST). In October 2020, Doha announced that a peace agreement had been brokered between the transitional government and rebel forces. has also provided much-needed humanitarian relief.temporarily
agricultural but only 15-20% is under cultivation. This offers vast investment opportunities in agriculture. is also strategically located on the Red Sea just south of the Suez Canal, a key shipping passage for world trade.remains a country of great economic and security importance to the world. It has an abundance of natural resources. The African Development Bank Group estimates that approximately 63% of Sudan’s land is
Major Challenges and Future Scenarios
Sudan’s transitional government recently set its priorities for 2021, which include a focus on the economy, peace, security, foreign relations and the ongoing democratic transition. However, the challenges facing the transitional government are dire. Foreign debt has risen to over $60 billion and inflation has crossed 300%. The country faces massive unemployment and chronic shortages of bread, fuel and foreign currency. is in the throes of a complex power struggle between civilians and the military. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) threatens Sudan’s water security. and Ethiopian troops have clashed at the border. If this was not daunting already, has registered nearly 32,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, as of April 9.
In response to some of these challenges, the transitional government has instituted seismic constitutional changes. After nearly three decades, the US removed from the SST list in January, eliminating a major hurdle to debt relief and bringing an end to the country’s isolation from global financial systems. However, the transitional government remains under pressure to deliver quick economic wins. If it fails, power may shift back toward the military. In these tough circumstances, the transitional government’s success and Sudan’s democratic future depend on outside financial support.
For, the crisis served as a minor inconvenience. The revolution and Sudan’s removal from the SST list are more significant developments. are now encountering a growing number of new regional and international players who are looking at with increased interest. This could very well cause a shift in – relations.
Althoughhave a shared strategic interest in Sudan’s stability, this takes a back seat to alliances that promote the individual interests of these countries. They are all trying to increase their regional influence and are turning post-revolution into another theater of GCC rivalry. Given Sudan’s fragile economic and political situation, it needs financial support. Economic forces played a major role in the fall of Omar al-Bashir’s regime and will determine the survival of the transitional government.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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