Struggling Sudan Gets $3 Billion from Oil-rich Gulf States

This past Sunday, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced financial support of $3.00 billion for Sudan following the overthrow of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir.

According to Wikipedia, Sudan is a country in North-East Africa, bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea to the east, Ethiopia to the southeast, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chadto the west, and Libya to the northwest.

She has a population of 39 million people (2016 estimate) and occupies a total area of 1,886,068 square kilometres (728,215 square miles), making it the third-largest country in Africa. Sudan’s predominant religion is Islam, and her official languages are Arabic and English. The capital is Khartoum, located at the confluence of the Blue and White Nile.

Since 2011, Sudan is the scene of ongoing military conflict in its regions South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Her history goes back to the Pharaonic period, witnessing the kingdom of Kerma (c. 2500 BC–1500 BC), the subsequent rule of the Egyptian New Kingdom (c. 1500 BC–1070 BC) and the rise of the kingdom of Kush (c. 785 BC–350 AD), which would in turn control Egypt itself for nearly a century. After the fall of Kush the Nubians formed the three Christian kingdoms of NobatiaMakuria and Alodia, with the latter two lasting until around 1500. Between the 14th and 15th centuries much of Sudan was settled by Arab nomads. From the 16th–19th centuries, central and eastern Sudan were dominated by the Funj sultanate, while Darfur ruled the west and the Ottomans the far north. This period saw extensive Islamization and Arabization.

From 1820 to 1874 the entirety of Sudan was conquered by the Muhammad Ali dynasty. Between 1881 and 1885 the harsh Egyptian reign was eventually met with a successful revolt led by the self-proclaimed Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad, resulting in the establishment of the Caliphate of Omdurman. This state was eventually destroyed in 1898 by the British, who would then govern Sudan together with Egypt.

The 20th century saw the growth of Sudanese nationalism and in 1953 Britain granted Sudan self-government. Independence was proclaimed on 1 January 1956. Since independence, Sudan has been ruled by a series of unstable parliamentary governments and military regimes. Under Gaafar Nimeiry, Sudan instituted Islamic law in 1983. This exacerbated the rift between the Islamic north, the seat of the government and the Animists and Christians in the south. Differences in language, religion, and political power erupted in a civil war between government forces, strongly influenced by the National Islamic Front (NIF) and the southern rebels, whose most influential faction was the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), eventually concluding in the independence of South Sudan in 2011.

This April, following contentious protests that faced fierce resistance from the Omar al-Bashir regime, the Sudanese military, under the command of Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, took control of the nation and established the Transitional Military Council. This move deposed al-Bashir and dissolved the constitution.

A day after the establishment of the Transitional Military Council, Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf stepped down due to the continued protests against his decision not to extradite Bashir to the International Criminal Court.

The oil-rich Gulf states however, pledged to inject $500 million in the Sudanese central bank and $2.5 billion to help provide food, medicine and petroleum products, the official Saudi Press Agency said without specifying if the money is a gift or a loan.

Saudi Arabia became the latest country to offer economic support to Sudan, as anti-government protests sparked by soaring living costs in the northern African nation rage for their sixth week.

“The king confirmed that Saudi Arabia wouldn’t hesitate to support Sudan until it overcomes the current situation,” Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment Majid Al-Qasabi told reporters Thursday in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.

He said his country has provided 8 billion riyals ($2.1 billion) in the past four years, “and we wouldn’t hesitate in supporting Sudan at anytime.” Al-Qasabi didn’t say what form any economic assistance would take.

The Saudi official’s visit came a day after Qatar expressed its support for President Omar al-Bashir’s government and Sudan’s oil minister said Russia and Turkey had offered economic assistance.

The United Arab Emirates has also provided Sudan with $300 million in financing and 1.12 million tons of fuel, according to a Sudanese newspaper and a ruling party lawmaker.

Rocketing prices for bread and shortages of fuel and other commodities have sparked a wave of protests across Sudan since December 19, with Amnesty International accusing authorities of a “deadly onslaught” on demonstrators.

The unrest has posed one of the greatest challenges to al-Bashir since he took power in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said two student protesters were killed Thursday in the greater Khartoum area. The government has acknowledged 26 deaths since the demonstrations began, while Amnesty has put the toll at more than 40.

The UAE has offered $1.4 billion to Sudan’s central bank to help Khartoum tackle an acute foreign exchange crisis, the official Sudanese news agency reported Tuesday.

The Sudanese pound has weakened against the dollar in recent months on the black market amid a shortage of hard foreign currency, in turn forcing the central bank to devalue the pound this year.

“President Omar al-Bashir has been informed by the UAE that it is giving Sudan 4 billion dirhams… as a central bank deposit to help support the country’s foreign currency reserves,” the official SUNA news agency reported.

The report did not provide further details on the aid.

Sudan’s economy has rapidly deteriorated after the south separated in 2011, taking with it nearly 75 percent of the country’s oil earnings, and in turn putting further pressure on the foreign exchange market.

The Sudanese pound had plunged sharply in late 2017 on the black market, and the authorities in a bid to end the market volatility have devalued the currency twice since January.

On Tuesday, the pound traded at 32 to the dollar on the black market, compared with the official rate of 30.

The UAE aid comes just days after SUNA reported that the central bank had agreed to a $2 billion loan from Turkish conglomerate Ozturk to help Sudan purchase petroleum products and wheat. The report did not provide details of the deal.

The weakening of the pound has contributed to surging inflation, which currently is at more than 50 percent.

Since January sporadic protests have erupted in Khartoum and some other parts of the country after the cost of bread soared on the back of rising flour prices.

The authorities have curbed the protests, but high food prices continue to spread discontent across the country.

Sudan’s overall economy had also suffered due to Washington’s trade sanctions imposed on Khartoum in 1997.

Although the embargo was lifted on October 12, Washington has still kept Sudan in its list of “state sponsor of terrorism,” making it difficult for Khartoum to access foreign loans and aid.

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