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Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE May Have ‘Green Lighted’ Sudanese Massacre

Protestors carrying an injured woman during Khartoum massacre.
Protestors carrying an injured woman during Khartoum massacre. (Photo: M.Saleh)

“The breaking up of the sit-in was one of the main points on the agenda that was discussed. Unless he got the green light from his regional allies he would not have been able to commit such a crime.”

A massacre took place June 3 outside the army headquarters in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum, where more than 100 people were killed and over 500 were injured according to civilian groups. Even before the tragic event occurred, many Sudanese activists were suspicious about the role of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Sudan’s political affairs.

Sabotaging Pro-Democracy Uprisings

After the ousting of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in April, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt sent official delegations to Sudan to meet with the Sudanese military junta and received delegations from the Sudanese military. Many Sudanese protesters and experts believe that the authoritarian countries do not want to see a successful democracy installed in Sudan and thus, this was the beginning of a sabotage of the Sudanese people’s uprising and call for a rule by the people.

With Bashir out, Sudan’s military stepped in to rule Sudan. Since the military takeover of Sudan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE jointly pledged $3 billion worth of aid to the Sudanese military council. They said that $500 million would go to the Sudanese central bank, and the rest would be in the form of food, medicine and petroleum products.

An Algerian-Sudanese analyst Ahmed Abdelaziz told the Middle East Eye that the donations would have come with strings attached.

“It is obvious that behind this repression, there is the hand of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” said Abdelaziz.

“On 21 April, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi pledged $3bn to Sudan. They did not do it without consideration. And this counterpart is not democracy. They want… their economic interests to be preserved.”

Mohamed Larbi Zitout, a former Algerian diplomat, said on the London-based Arabic language TV station, Al-Hiwar, that Saudis and Emiratis usually use money to bribe Arab politicians in the region. The bribes guarantee that receiving countries or politicians will do exactly what they want them to do, which is to repress their own people and preserve authoritarian regimes.

Martyrs of the Khartoum Massacre

Martyrs of the Khartoum Massacre (Photo: M.Saleh)

Fueling suspicions that Saudi Arabia and the UAE were behind the disruption of Sudan’s democratic transition is the fact that right after the announcement of the $3 billion dollar aid package, Sudan’s military council suspended talks with the opposition on May 15, and insisted that protesters remove barricades in front of the military headquarters.

Soon after the disruption of talks with the opposition, on May 23, Sudan’s military council deputy and the commander of the rapid support forces, Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo (widely known as Hemeti and a former Janjaweed militia leader), met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia. MBS pledged a “vast investment” in Sudan, as the military council said in a statement.

Military council head General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan also traveled to neighboring Egypt for talks with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Burhan then said he would not forge relationships with any nation working against the interests of Egypt and its Gulf allies. Days after that visit, Burhan flew to the UAE to meet Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, who “affirmed the UAE’s support in preserving Sudan’s security and stability,” according to the Associated Press.

Burhan also traveled on May 30 to Mecca, Saudi Arabia for an emergency meeting of Arab and Gulf leaders to discuss tensions with Iran. He reportedly met MBS to discuss the latest regional developments.

Then on June 6, the Middle East Eye (MEE) published a report where an anonymous Sudanese military expert told MEE that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt must have green-lighted the plan to break up the civilian sit-in outside military headquarters in Khartoum. According to the anonymous expert, plans to disperse the civilian sit-in had been discussed during the Sudanese military council’s recent visits to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

“The breaking up of the sit-in was one of the main points on the agenda that was discussed,” the expert told MEE. “Unless he got the green light from his regional allies he would not have been able to commit such a crime.”

Gulf States Growing Influence in Sudan

Salah Gosh, Sudan’s influential former spy chief, told Foreign Policy that UAE involvement increased significantly after the removal of Bashir. Gosh himself was installed as head of Sudan’s intelligence service with the support of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, according to current and former U.S. officials, as reported by Foreign Policy. Gosh said that the UAE pushed the coup while Saudi Arabia and Egypt were not involved.

Other reports, however, such as one from the Associated Press (AP), mentioned that all three Arab countries pushed for Bashir’s removal in Sudan in part because of his shifting loyalties towards rival countries. The AP report also cited anonymous Egyptian security officials that claimed all three countries were motivated to intervene out of fear of Islamists taking power in Sudan and the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.

One U.S. official said that with the absence of the U.S. in Sudan, the Gulf States are filling the void and running the show.

“The leaders and governments of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt do not share our fundamental democratic values, and their views on what should happen in Sudan diverge significantly from the policies the United States should be pursuing,” Johnnie Carson, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, told Foreign Policy.

In a statement released last week, the opposing Democratic Alliance of Lawyers in Sudan accused “some Arab countries” of supporting the military council in order to protect their own interests in the country. They asked those countries to lift their hands from Sudan and stop supporting the Military Council and consolidating the pillars of its rule.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are now accused by many to be the main drivers since the Arab Spring of anti-democratic uprisings in the Arab region. They interfered in Egypt by supporting the military in their coup d’état of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsy. In Libya, they armed General Khalifa Haftar in order to take over Tripoli and end the democratically-elected transitional council there.

But Yemen and Syria are the bloodiest examples in the region. The Saudis and Emiratis conducted a proxy war in Syria and formed a coalition in Yemen where they claimed to fight the Iranian backed Houthi militia but instead commit atrocities in their name.

The real question to ask of the massacre in Sudan is: what does it mean if the Saudis give the massacre a green light when they are a U.S. backed ally? And is it possible for the Saudis and Emiratis to approve of the massacre in Sudan without the consent of the United States?


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