Protesters warn the two oil rich gulf states against "meddling" in their country, with many chanting: “We do not want Saudi aid even if we have to eat beans and falafel!”
Sudan’s protesters have angrily rejected a $3bn aid pledge by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, reflecting deeply held suspicions about the oil rich Persian Gulf states’ motives in the country.
Many of those on the streets have even gone as far as to demand that the country’s Transitional Military Council (TMC) cut diplomatic ties with both states, which back Sudan’s new rulers and have always been influential players in Sudanese politics.
“The Saudi-led bloc supports authoritarian regimes [across the Middle East and North Africa], including Sudan’s authoritarian status-quo,” said Murat Yigit, a researcher in African studies at Istanbul Commerce University.
“One of the most important dynamics in the current protests is that Sudan is partly a foreign-guided state. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are important actors in Sudanese politics,” he explained further.
Sudanese protesters have displayed remarkable determination to bring democracy to the country even after Omar al Bashir’s fall.
Initial protests against his rule began over the soaring prices of bread and a runaway rate of inflation at 70 percent. By rejecting Saudi-UAE aid in these economic conditions, the protestors are sending a strong message that they will not settle for anything less than complete independence and freedom.
“The Sudanese protesters know, just like many Muslims all around the world, that the Saudi and Emirate regime have become the worst enemies of progressive Islam, as well as being agents of the West,” said the University of Minnesota Professor Abdi Ismail Samatar.
“It is refreshing to see a African Muslim popular movement challenge those rotten regimes,” Samatar told TRT World.
Sudanese experts worry that by pumping money to the country’s rulers, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE will attempt to mould the country’s governance to its liking.
Sudan has also made significant military contribution to the Saudi-led Yemen war, where it has lost hundreds of its soldiers. Saudis do not want to lose another ally in the bloody conflict, which is also a source of protesters’ wrath towards the Saudi-led bloc.
“A soft landing for the old regime is being orchestrated by some Middle Eastern powers so that they can keep their allies in power,” Mohamed Yusuf al-Mustafa, who leads the country’s most powerful union, the Sudanese Professionals Association, told the Washington Post.
“Their way of thinking is the classic Arab attitude toward Sudan: Support military leaders, protect your interests and look away from bad behavior toward the people,” Mustafa added.
Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have also supported authoritarians and would-be authoritarians in Middle Eastern countries, such as Libya, where they back warlord Khalifa Haftar, and Egypt, where they backed Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s coup against the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi.
The evidence for the Saudi-UAE plans to interfere in Sudan are more than just rumours, according to researchers.
“There is news coming from Sudan saying that [Mohammed Yusuf] Dahlan and other figures from UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, will visit the country [meeting the military council’s leaders],” said Mayada Kamal Eldeen, a Turkey-based Sudanese researcher and a member of the African Coordination and Education Center in Istanbul.
Dahlan is a notorious Palestinian political operator, whose name has surfaced in many conspiracies involving the Saudis and the UAE.
“If Sudan acts in accordance with them [Saudis and their allies], it will take a route into becoming the next Libya or Egypt...it will become a country which will damage itself and its neighbours,” Eldeen told TRT World.
Yigit agreed, explaining that the current Sudanese regime, which has lost much of its legitimacy in the eyes of ordinary people, cannot survive under normal conditions.
“Foreign support [the UAE-Saudi bloc] sustains the survival of [military-imposed] rule,” Yigit said.
He thinks that the attitude of the international community and its response to Saudi-led policies will determine the fate of the current regime.
Eldeed said Turkey, which has opposed the spread of Saudi-led authoritarianism, along with its Gulf ally Qatar, need to step up to help stabilise Sudan.
“The Sudanese people have much expectation from Turkey and they urgently need Turkey’s help at the moment,” she said.