Sudan is to get $3 billion in financial aid from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in support of its transitioning from the 30-year-rule of recently ousted Omar al-Bashir. According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), both Gulf countries will deposit $500 million with the Sudanese central bank and send $2.5 billion in the form of food, medicine and petroleum products.
“This is to strengthen its financial position, ease the pressure on the Sudanese pound and increase stability in the exchange rate,” said the SPA. Since Bashir’s ouster, the Sudanese pound has strengthened 45 pounds to a dollar in coincidence with the sharp rise in the price of the pound against the dollar on the parallel market after trading at 72 at some point last week.
Still, the Sudanese who are further protesting military leadership and demanding civilian rule for the next two years of transition are also rejecting Saudi and UAE’s financial support for fear of being influenced and controlled by the oil-rich countries. Protesters at a sit-in outside the country’s military headquarters in Khartoum were reportedly chanting, “We don’t want Saudi support.”
“The timing of their aid says a lot about their intentions,” a protester, Hanan Alsadiq told Aljazeera. “Why did they wait until now? Why did they not call on Omar al-Bashir to stop when he was killing our people? Their money will only create problems for us,” he said, adding that all the country needs is good leadership.
Sudan plays a key role in the regional interests of the two Gulf States through its participation in the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen which was then headed by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the current head of Sudan’s transitional military council (TMC). This explains the fear of the Sudanese people, particularly as the military has been reluctant to hand power over to the people.
However, economists say Sudan needs all the financial assistance it can get to improve its dire economic situation. Muhammad Aljak, an economics professor at Khartoum University, said the northeast African country needs financial aid to fill the gap in trade imbalance and fill the areas of insufficiency in its annual budget. According to him, it is too early to judge the motive behind Saudi’s offered aid, whether or not there are political conditions tied to it. “Sudan needs this money and it needs to use it properly,” Aljak said.
Since the secession of South Sudan in 2011 that took away the bulk of oil earnings, Sudan has been suffering from a deepening economic crisis. Mismanagement and deep-seated corruption of Bashir’s administration, coupled with trade sanctions by the United States further aggravated the country’s economic crisis resulting in cash shortages, inflation, and unending queues for food and gas.
This consequently fuelled the nationwide protests that led to the deposing of Bashir by the military earlier in the month. Protests first began in December 2018 after a hike in the price of bread, a staple food in the northeast African country.