KHARTOUM – Oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have just written another check to bail out their latest troubled ally.
The Gulf nations on Sunday pledged $3 billion to Sudan after longtime President Omar al-Bashir was toppled this month. In a statement, they said they’ll deposit $500 million in Sudan’s central bank to ease pressure on the currency. The remainder will go toward food, medicine and fuel.
It’s the latest in a string of pledges as the two nations seek to maintain their political influence and prop up allies in the Middle East and beyond, even as lower oil prices weigh on their own economies. Over the past two years, they’ve promised aid to countries including Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen and Pakistan.
Reasons for the support vary. The two nations, along with Kuwait, signed off on a bailout package for Bahrain to avert a currency devaluation that could have harmed the riyal. Jordan was teetering on the brink of an economic crisis that threatened the stability of a fellow Sunni Arab monarchy.
Sudan is one of the leading contributors of troops to the Saudi-led war in Yemen, where the kingdom and the U.A.E. are fighting rebels allied with Iran. Al-Bashir’s government renounced ties with Iran when it joined the coalition in 2015.
The move may give some breathing space for Sudan, whose military overthrew al-Bashir on April 11 and is under pressure from protesters, the African Union and U.S. to give way to a civilian government.
Africa’s third-largest country, it’s been rocked by four months of fatal unrest sparked by soaring living costs. Demonstrations continued in the capital, Khartoum, and other cities over the weekend.
The funds were pledged “out of a sense of duty toward the Sudanese people,” Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. said in the statement.
Al-Bashir, who himself took charge in a 1989 coup, became the second leader on the continent to be forced from office this month in the face of nationwide demonstrations, following Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The events have stirred echoes of the Arab Spring uprisings that rocked the region from 2011.
The military council’s head, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, said Sunday in televised comments that it’s ready to hand over power as soon as Sudan’s political factions agree on a way forward.
In what appeared a bid to deflect activists’ criticisms that al-Bashir’s ousting was a palace coup replacing one form of autocratic rule with another, al-Burhan described the council as a “bridge” to building a new Sudan. He said a Sudanese delegation will visit Washington to discuss the U.S. removing the country from its list of state sponsors of terror, where it was placed in 1993.
The Declaration of Freedom and Change, an opposition coalition organizing the protests, earlier said there’d been no progress in Saturday’s talks with the council on establishing a timetable for civilian rule. Authorities have met other demands, including lifting a curfew, replacing some of the council’s leaders and arresting key figures of al-Bashir’s 30-year regime.
The 75-year-old, who’s wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes and genocide, was last week moved to a notorious prison in Khartoum. Prominent members of his National Congress Party have since been jailed too.
Al-Burhan on Sunday said more than €7 million ($7.9 million) had been found in al-Bashir’s home. Local media reported the previous day that the ex-president was being investigated for alleged money laundering.