Sudan's Vulnerable Position in MENA Politics

People, cameras and everything in between are paying close attention to Sudan’s vulnerable position in MENA Politics. This past month, the political crisis in Sudan has received worldwide attention. For example, internet users implemented blue social media avatars commemorating fallen Sudanese activist Mohamed Mattar.  The conflict exists between Sudanese democracy advocates and the Transitional Military Council (TMC) currently governing the country, following the ousting of Omar Al-Bashir. However, it is important to understand just what is keeping Sudan and innocent civilians from moving forward with a more egalitarian society. Here are five facts about Sudan’s vulnerable position in MENA Politics.

  1. Sudan has a claim to mineral-rich areas of the Red Sea.
    The majority of Sudan’s geography is rich in minerals and natural gas. In 2011, when the two countries became independent, this was left with South Sudan. A crucial 7,945 square miles of land, known as the Halayeb Triangle, is still within Sudanese land claims.
    This region has a coastline on the Red Sea, a location seemingly ideal for new oil exploration ventures. But, it’s not Sudanese efforts that have jumped on this opportunity. This leads to the next fact about Sudan’s vulnerable position in MENA politics.
  2. Egypt claims the same area and has made power plays to extrapolate resources.
    Following Sudan’s independence from colonialism in 1956, Egypt has been in conflict with Sudan. The conflict is over which country has a right and full claim to the land and all its potential as a natural resource for either country’s economy.
    In March of this year, The Arab Weekly reports that Egyptian state-sponsored South Valley Egyptian Petroleum Holding Company has invited up to ten separate oil and gas exploration bids to the very same Halayeb region. The report claims that the area surrounding is “Egyptian territorial waters.”
    The same article quotes a statement by Sudan’s Foreign Ministry: “The Foreign Ministry summoned Egyptian Ambassador Hossam Eissa… to protest against the tenders invited by the Egyptian Oil Ministry for areas under the sovereignty of Sudan.” The Sudanese Oil and Gas Minister of State called it “a direct intrusion” of both the country’s right to issue exploration licenses to that region. Sudanese officials claim the Halayeb region has been the sovereign territory of Sudan since 1956, the country’s year of independence.
  3. The Gulf Nations plan to support the militia government of Sudan.
    On June 20, 2019, the Council on Foreign Relations wrote that countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are putting their support behind the Transitional Military Council in Sudan. These two countries have pledged $3 billion in aid for the TMC to disperse to civilians in the form of food, water and medicine.
    The International Crisis Group finds this political and economic move to be simply another example of something common among Gulf states. That is, moving “from one military regime to another.”
    This fact about Sudan’s vulnerable position in MENA Politics focuses on a continued disenfranchisement of Sudanese civilians even after the authoritarian president Omar Al-Bashir was forced out of office. These Gulf Nations’ support of the military government is not in accordance with the wants of Sudanese civilians.
  4. A remnant of the Al-Bashir era is sympathetic to Saudi Arabian efforts in Sudan.
    Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemeti) was a close political aide to Omar al-Bashir before the military coup. He has now outwardly shown his appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s and the UAE’s contribution to Sudan’s military-governmental complex. He showed this by meeting with Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and vowing to support Riyadh against “all threats and attacks” by the country’s political opponents for power in the Middle East.
  5. Hemeti still controls Sudanese military activity.
    As Hemeti is a representative of the military presence that currently governs Sudan. His commanding activity must also be taken into account to better understand the conflict and protests of earlier this June.
    Hemeti is the commander of the Rapid Support Forces, a militia group that grew from Sudan’s Janjaweed presence. The Janjaweed (or “devils on horseback” in a Sudanese colloquial language) were also under Hemeti’s supervision. They are widely acknowledged as responsible for the genocidal crimes against humanity of 2005 in the Sudanese region of Darfur.
    Civilians no longer appreciate this modern-day reincarnation of an overbearing militia. One activist, Hajooj Kuka, stated: “We do not want to move forward with the RSF as part of the Sudanese army. At this point, we have totally lost trust in them.”
    The Rapid Support Forces are also responsible for the fast publicized retaliation to civil protests on June 3, 2019.  Around 100 Sudanese Activists died during and after this crisis. This occurred on what would have been a festive Eid al-Fitr, or the end of Ramadan.

How to Help

Overall, these five facts about Sudan’s vulnerable position in MENA politics show how Middle Eastern powerhouses are hoping to take control of Sudanese land and government for personal gain. They are doing this without the interest of Sudanese civilians at heart.

While it may be difficult to address this misrepresentation directly, Bustle outlines that there are simple ways to help show the inequity Sudanese people are experiencing regularly.  Individuals around the world can:

  • Support Humanitarian Programs – UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore stated that “Children throughout Sudan are already bearing the brunt of decades of conflict, chronic underdevelopment, and poor governance.” To address this, UNICEF has begun transporting ready-to-eat therapeutic food and necessary medicine to improve the quality of life for children in Sudan under the age of five. The funding through June 12 sent 22,000 tons of these basic needs to those in need.
  • Sign a Petition – Petitions are circulating on the internet calling upon international organizations to hold Sudan accountable. In one, Change.org calls upon the United Nations to launch an investigation into the events of June 3, 2019, in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum.
  • Reach out – A great way to improve human rights as a U.S. constituent is to contact elected officials. Calling is effective. Also effective is using the ResistBot program to text one’s concerns. Be sure to mention your support of U.S. assistance to the humanitarian crisis in this country. Congressional staffers record every contact made in support of a cause. With enough support, all the claims of constituents regarding Sudan’s vulnerable position in MENA politics will be taken seriously.

-Fatemeh Zahra Yarali

Photo: Flickr