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Military coup in Sudan: will Russia maintain her presence in the country?

19.04.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Apart from being the largest country in the eastern part of Africa, Sudan is also a significant and strategic region for the entire continent due to her natural resources and access to the Red Sea. The latest events in Sudan arouse the interest of many states, both in terms of investments that have already made, and their continued presence in the country, as well as in terms of political stability throughout the region. However, it is early to draw any conclusions, especially on relations between Russia and Sudan.

COUP D’ÉTAT

The military coup in Sudan occurred on the morning of April 11, 2019, which resulted to the removal of the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir; who has been in power for almost 30 years, by the armed forces of the country after long protests.

The main reason for this action can be associated to the internal situation in the country especially the economic situation due to the falling demand for Sudanese oil.

The second factor is external influence. When the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Omar al-Bashir for crimes related to the genocide in Darfur in 2008, the personality of the president became a serious factor for the country’s social and economic distress.

The coup in Sudan had a similar scenario with those that occurred in Libya and Algeria. Both of these experiences in neighboring countries have demonstrated a mechanism for overcoming the crisis for the political elite of Sudan. In addition, the new government of Sudan in the face of the interim military council from the first days wisely declared its readiness to respect International agreements signed by the country and to cooperate with other states:

“The Interim Military Council is ready to respect all international agreements and instruments, as well as regional instruments. We are ready to fully cooperate with the international community to ensure stability, peace and peaceful transition (power) based on our political convictions” Magdi Ahmed Mofadal Elnur, the Permanent Representative of Sudan to the UN, said on April 12.

Tellingly, the power of the military has the support of an influential regional player. Saudi Arabia supports the actions of the Transitional Military Council of Sudan and is ready to provide the country with the necessary humanitarian assistance. A statement by the authorities of the kingdom was published by Al Arabiya TV channel:

“The Kingdom declares its support for the steps announced by the Transitional Military Council … and hopes that this will ensure security and stability in Sudan,” the statement said. It should be noted that the Saudi king ordered the relevant departments of the country to prepare humanitarian aid for the people of Sudan.

RUSSIA AND SUDAN

Today, there is a lot of debate on the topic of the pro-Russian ruler overthrown in Sudan. In our opinion, Omar al-Bashir was not so much a pro-Russian but a pragmatic politician. Like many Eastern and African leaders, he tried to play on the contradictions and frictions of the West and Russia, trying to simultaneously obtain certain benefits from both sides.

Military, technical and security cooperation between Russia and Sudan is of great importance. Despite all international sanctions, Russia (along with China and the countries of the former USSR) since the late 90s – early 2000s, they have been selling weapons to Sudan. According to some estimates, over the past 20 years, Sudan has purchased weapons for one billion dollars from Russia.

Thus, in 2004, Russia delivered 15 MiG-29S airplanes to Sudan for over $ 200 million. In 2011, Rosoboron export signed a contract to supply 12 combat Mi-24P and 6 Mi-8MT transport helicopters withdrawn from the Russian Air Force to the republic. In Sudan, there is a Russian technical helicopter center. Around this time, Russian military instructors, a permanent contingent of 30 people, have been working in Sudan; they are engaged in military training and security consulting. Also, Sudanese military recruits are trained in Russia.

In 2018, trade between the two countries amounted to $ 510.4 million, an increase of 16.4% compared with 2017. Russian exports to Sudan reached $ 509.3 million (an increase of 16.3%), imports amounted to $ 1.1 million (an increase of 36.5%). Sudan’s share in the foreign trade turnover of the Russian Federation in 2018 was 0.07% (82nd place).

Trade and economic ties between Russia and Sudan are regulated by an intergovernmental agreement on trade, economic and technical cooperation, concluded in 1998. The interests of Russian capital in Sudan are also connected with energy, gold mining, oil and gas production.

Russia and the new Sudanese authorities

“We are closely monitoring this situation, we hope that, firstly, there will not be some kind of escalation of the situation that could lead to human casualties, and we expect that in the very near future the situation will return to the constitutional mainstream,” said Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov.

He stressed that what is happening is an internal affair of Sudan. “We expect that, whatever the outcome, Russian-Sudanese relations will be a constant in Sudan’s foreign policy,” he said.

On April 18, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov held talks in Khartoum with the new leadership of Sudan:

“The meeting went well, the conversation was positive. Negotiations were held with the new leadership of Sudan – with the chairman and deputy chairman of the transitional military council. We are ready to continue our traditionally friendly relations and continue cooperation, maintaining political dialogue,”Bogdanov said.

He noted that Russian companies will continue to work in Sudan even after the change of power in the country.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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