The dangerous bet.. Why does Egypt support the military’s control in Sudan?


International efforts are still underway to find a way out of the crisis that was started by Lieutenant-General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, the head of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, after his attempt to seize power and exclude the civilian component led by Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok and members of his government. While Saudi Arabia and the UAE recently launched a joint call with the United States and Britain calling for the return of civilian rule in Sudan, Egypt has been absent from the ongoing diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. This image seems to contradict the previous active Egyptian presence inside Sudan after the overthrow of Al-Bashir in early 2019. The Egyptian regime sought, who held the presidency of the African Union at the time, to obstruct the transfer of power to civilians more than once, and succeeded through continuous pressure in supporting the military component during its disputes with civilians.

However, Cairo was satisfied with a lukewarm statement issued by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry after the recent coup attempt of General Al-Burhan in Sudan, in which he stated that it was closely following developments, and this coincided with biased coverage by the media channels Owned by the United Company, which is affiliated with the General Intelligence Service, it hosted guests who attacked Hamdok’s government and civilians in Sudan. According to one of the press sources that Maidan spoke to, the intelligence issued instructions to the media outlets to describe Al-Burhan as “the Commander in Chief” and present a positive image of him, and not to use the term coup in naming what happened in Sudan.

Egypt and Sudan’s revolutionaries..a turbulent relationship

At a time when protests hit the Sudanese street about two years ago, calling for economic reforms and the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir, Egypt supported The Sudanese president gave clear support in the face of the popular uprising despite the known tensions between the Egyptian and Sudanese regimes at the time, especially with regard to his relations with the Muslim Brotherhood networks. Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian Foreign Minister, accompanied by Abbas Kamel, Director of General Intelligence, visited the capital, Khartoum, just days after the demonstrations began in 2019, as the former Sudanese president himself surprise visit To Cairo, he praised the Egyptian role in supporting the stability of his regime against the protests, a position that caused demonstrations to reach the Egyptian embassy in Khartoum, denouncing what the revolutionaries described as the Egyptian intervention to thwart their revolution.

As soon as al-Bashir fell, Egypt lost an important card for its influence in Sudan, especially with its negative stance on the revolution, and then sought to subjugate the African Union in the service of its regional interests, and to support the Military Council in its struggle for power for months, policies that led to the failure of Egyptian mediation. The first, with the refusal of influential civilian political entities (such as the prominent professional association) to accept any Egyptian role.

As soon as the Egyptian presence stumbled as a result of the support of Al-Bashir and then the army at the expense of the revolutionaries, Ethiopia seized the opportunity and entered the line as a competitive mediator acceptable to all as a result of its neutral stance towards the revolution, especially the new Prime Minister at the time, “Abi Ahmed”, took it upon himself to spread the influence of Addis. Ababa is regional and used his diplomatic background to resolve the disputes surrounding it before his country descended itself into civil war last year. At the time, the Ethiopian mediator succeeded in his efforts after negotiations between the “Freedom and Change” forces and the Military Council that led to the signing of a power-sharing agreement that won the support of the African Union, the Arab League and the United States.

Ethiopia reaped quick political gains from its mediation. In addition to the international and regional celebration that received Abi Ahmed, Addis Ababa, after Hamdok’s rise to the presidency of the government, found an opportunity to strengthen its relationship with the post-Bashir Sudan, and to rely on the friendship that brought together the two heads of government to ensure Khartoum’s support for Ethiopia in the event of disputes. Regional (such as the Renaissance Dam crisis in which Sudan initially supported Addis Ababa). On the other hand, Hamdok’s rise constituted a muffled crisis in relations with Cairo, as he promoted himself as the gateway to the future civil rule for Sudan.

Sudanese Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok- - KHARTOUM, SUDAN -AUGUST 15: Sudanese Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok speaks during a press conference in Khartoum, Sudan on August 15, 2021.Abdullah Hamdouk

These crisis relations between the Egyptian regime and the Sudanese government became evident when Aid Hamdok Abi Ahmed’s statements about the Renaissance Dam, and he considered that the goal of its establishment is to produce electricity, not to besiege the two downstream countries. Furthermore it, Sudan reservation An Arab decision within the Arab League to support Egypt in the file of the Renaissance Dam, which prompted Cairo to request the intervention of its military allies in the crisis to at least neutralize Sudan, which is what respond He has the proof with “Mohamed Hamdan Daglo”, the commander of the Rapid Support Forces, pledging to support Egypt to preserve its water share.

About six months before the last coup, a new tension erupted between Cairo and Khartoum against the background of an invitation Hamdok To open the file of the “Halayeb and Shalateen” triangle, which is disputed with Egypt, statements that were quickly corrected the proof He said, “We have a good understanding with Egypt regarding the border triangle, and we do not want it to be a thorn in our relations,” indicating that the time is not appropriate to talk about Halayeb and Shalateen in light of the existing alliance between the two countries. Then the coup attempt came in conjunction with Egypt’s reluctance to adopt a clear position.The Wall Street JournalThe American quoted three sources, describing it as an insider, that the Egyptian intelligence director, “Abbas Kamel,” met Al-Burhan a few days before his coup attempt, without meeting Hamdok.

Sudan and the Renaissance Dam… Egypt’s temporary ally

Cairo, then, engineered its new relations with Sudan through the gate of the Military Council, which supported the Egyptian position wholeheartedly, at a time when Hamdok and his government sided with Ethiopia, which succeeded in winning the civil forces in its favor due to the tension of its previous relations with Egypt, in exchange for the guarantees set by the Ethiopian initiative in the constitutional document. It prevented military leaders from running in the upcoming presidential elections. Even before Sudan announced its position in support of Ethiopia through its reservation on a decision supporting Egypt’s position on the Renaissance Dam in the Arab League, indications of rapprochement between Hamdok and Abi Ahmed appeared when Ethiopia withdrew Her candidate for the position of Vice President of the International Organization for Migration in favor of the candidate of Sudan, in exchange for activating the electricity exchange agreement with Ethiopia, at a value of 300 megawatts.

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrive for the opening of the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

In exchange for Hamdok and his government’s uninterrupted visits to Ethiopia, Egypt moved towards providing support to the Transitional Military Council, and the announced coordination continued through a series of meetings with Al-Burhan and Hemedti, which Hamdok missed in the first months of his assumption of office in what appeared to be an Egyptian disregard for him. Although the Egyptian role initially faltered, Cairo began rapprochement with Hamdok after he was subjected to a failed assassination attempt in March 2020, after which he began to turn the page on the differences between the two sides, and then the sharp tone that Sudan had adopted towards Egypt in the past, a trend that was strengthened after The meeting of Hamdok and Abbas Kamel, as View the last Egyptian cooperation in investigations.

Abbas Kamel’s visits to Hamdok were repeated, after which the latter visited Egypt at the invitation of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and signs of a breakthrough and a shift in the official Sudanese position began. According to leaks It was published by Mustafa Bakri, a member of the House of Representatives and an Egyptian journalist close to the regime, Cairo reached an agreement with the Sudanese Prime Minister to take a positive role in its favor with regard to the Renaissance Dam, and in a way that preserves for Egypt and Sudan their historical rights to the Nile waters, and forces Ethiopia to sign a binding agreement regarding the Nile waters. Management and operation of the dam in the dry seasons and during the filling of the reservoir. The first indications of this transformation appeared in the message sent by Sudan to the country Security Council In June 2020, he affirmed his neutrality before later joining the Egyptian Front.

Away from the subsequent escalatory positions taken by Sudan in alignment with Egypt against Ethiopia, the Sudanese position since the days of Al-Bashir has always taken a position that does not see the Renaissance Dam as a real danger, which represented a crisis in Egypt that exacerbated with the rise of the civilian component in Sudan, which is mortgaging its current alliance with Egypt on consensus. On several issues, especially with the presence of other civilian forces opposed to any Egyptian role inside Sudan. Despite the strides Sudan has made in the clash with Ethiopia, and the political and diplomatic escalation with it against the background of the Nile crisis and the border conflict, Egypt always sees through its official channels that the Sudanese position does not support Egypt as required, according to what was published by the website.Mada MasrQuoting an official in the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

This proposition confirms that there is no Sudanese-Egyptian coordination and cooperation in the dam file, and that the positions of the two countries are often contradictory. Khartoum On giving a greater role to the experts of the African Union, Egypt rejects this vision and sees it in the interest of Ethiopia. The fluctuations in the Sudanese mood were evident during the speech delivered by “Maryam Sadiq al-Mahdi”, the Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, in Security Council Three months before the last coup, in which it acknowledged that Sudan would reap benefits from the dam, statements that reflected the fluctuation of the Sudanese position on the issue.

Lessons of the coup .. What if Hamdok returned to power?

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok attends a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron and Sudan's Sovereign Council Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (not seen) during the International Conference in support of Sudan at the Temporary Grand Palais in Paris, France, May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/Pool

Perhaps this confusion in Khartoum’s positions is what prompted Egypt to support the recent coup – implicitly – in the hope that Sudan under the rule of the army would be more in line with Cairo’s priorities. However, it does not seem that the current coup will proceed on its previously planned path in light of international pressures that increase the complexities of the political scene. The process of breaking up the partnership with the civilian component led by the military in power under the pretext of correcting the transitional path was met with a broad international rejection, as represented by the joint statement that Issued by the United States, Britain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia is an additional pressure point on the military component that may force it to back down, not to mention suspend Khartoum from the African Union.

For its part, Egypt was absent from the joint Quartet statement, and thus, by its hesitation about recent events, put itself in a position similar to its position during the last days of Al-Bashir, and lost, at least partially, what diplomacy had repaired in its relations with the civilian component during the months preceding the coup attempt. With the escalation led by the gathering of professionals to organize a comprehensive civil disobedience, and the announcement of a general strike throughout the country, these events are negatively reflected on the Military Council, which recently released four ministers it had previously arrested, in addition to negotiating with Hamdok to return to his position again in exchange for a new political agreement under American auspices. . While the French newspaper “Le Monde” reported that Sudan’s coup was a manifestation for the influence of Egypt Among Sudan’s generals, Egypt will again be hurt by Hamdok’s possible return, and will need to recommence its diplomatic efforts to build trust with the civilian component.

Sudan's Sovereign Council Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, in Khartoum, Sudan March 6, 2021. Sudan Sovereign Council/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

Cairo is still seen to this day as preferring the control of the military, which weakens its ability to win the trust of Hamdok and the civil forces, and this is clearly shown in the recent demonstrations that denounced what it described as “Egyptian interference in Sudanese affairs”, suspicions reinforced by the recent Egyptian silence. And leaks published by foreign newspapers about Cairo’s involvement in supporting the coup. Although Egypt has explicitly distanced itself from supporting the coup, which has become clear that it is an adventure not accurately calculated on the part of Al-Burhan, its unclear position, especially with its absence from the Quartet statement despite the presence of its Saudi and Emirati allies, will mean that it is obliged to make double efforts to restore the confidence of civilians about their return to power.

According to the constitutional document, Al-Burhan is scheduled to hand over power to civilians in June next year (if a new political agreement is not reached), and then Egypt will have to face new realities in its neighborhood, but in light of the turmoil of the situation in Ethiopia, whose position is increasing. International and regional weakness, it seems that there is still an opportunity for Egypt to restore confidence between it and the other components of power in Sudan, and to use its relations with the generals further in view of the aim of reaching a joint Egyptian-Sudanese vision regarding the national security of the downstream countries and the Egyptian and Arab presence in East Africa. Instead of supporting one party to monopolize power at the expense of the other.

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