UAE played key role in cementing Sudan military's power after popular protests

UAE played key role in cementing Sudan military's power after popular protests
The UAE and Saudi Arabia have been key players in the overthrow of Sudan President Omar al-Bashir.
4 min read
03 July, 2019
Bashir was overthrown in April following months of protests [Getty]
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been key players in the recent political turmoil that has engulfed Sudan, a report from Reuters claimed on Wednesday, with rival military and intelligence figures empowered during the gradual overthrow of the country's president.

The report, using multiple sources, also alleges that Sudan's former President Omar al-Bashir was forced out of power in April.

This was in part due to Bashir's refusal to purge Islamists from his government, a key demand of the UAE if they were to continue political and economic support for the president.

Bashir was overthrown in April following months of popular protests against the country's autocratic rule and spiraling bread prices. His downfall was tied to the UAE and Saudi Arabia's regional efforts to eradicate the Muslim Brotherhood, as witnessed in Egypt following a military coup in 2013.

Since the overthrow of Bashir in April, Sudan has been ruled by a military junta which has used violent and often fatal measures to suppress popular protests.

Sources told Reuters that some of the economic problems the country faced in the months before his downfall were due to the UAE and Saudi Arabia cutting financial support to Bashir last year, after he failed to rein in Islamists as requested by Abu Dhabi. Islamist figures were key political allies of the president since his rise to power from 1989.

When party officials asked Bashir why the UAE and Saudi Arabia weren't coming to Khartoum's aid, Sudan's leader said it was because of the continued presence of Islamist figures in government.

"Our brothers want me to get rid of you Islamists," Bashir reportedly told party leaders.

In December 2018, fuel supplies to Sudan were cut by the UAE.

"The Emirates and Saudi decided not to support Bashir financially because he refused to get rid of the Islamists and would not give in to pressure to support Saudi Arabia and the Emirates against Qatar," Ghamar Habani, a leading figure in Bashir's National Congress Party told the news agency.

"They would not accept that Sudan would not take sides."

What began was the gradual economic deterioration of Sudan and the loosening of Bashir's grip on power as the president was unable or unwilling to end the Islamists power.

A key ally of the president, Taha Osman al-Hussein, effectively controlled Sudan's foreign policy, until he was dismissed when he allegedly took Saudi nationality and millions of dollars from Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.

"He was the man who had a magic hold on Bashir's mind," a source told Reuters.

With Hussein out of the picture, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi lost their hold over Bashir, the story added, with Khartoum reportedly refusing to take sides in the Saudi-UAE blockade of Qatar.

What did lead to Bashir's overthrow was an alleged plot hatched by key figures in the regime, including intelligence chief Salah Gosh.

He reportedly met jailed opposition figures at the request of Abu Dhabi and a tug-of-war ensued between the spymaster and Bashir.

Gosh reportedly wanted a "dignified" departure for Bashir, who allegedly resisted efforts by regime figures to see him leave power.

The security forces then pulled protection for Bashir, as protests intensified, leading to the eventual downfall of the president.

Meanwhile the UAE reportedly made further outreaches to Sudan's political elite as Bashir's grip on power loosened.

Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with rebel leaders, while Qatar's bid to establish talks with the government were rebuffed.

Sudanese militia leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo - known as Hemedti - rose to power during this period as reports that Gosh was forced to flee the country.

In June, Hemedti's forces brutally crushed a sit-in in Khartoum murdering over a hundred protesters. 

The militia leader then became the undisputed leader of the military council, as protesters desperately try to keep their campaign for civilian rule alive. Only time will tell if they are successful in their bid for democracy.

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