The struggle for influence in the Middle East has moved to the Horn of Africa, as the UAE and its ally, Saudi Arabia, are investing heavily in the impoverished region of the world, the Financial Times reported.
The newspaper pointed out that the crackdown launched by the military council in Sudan has made the intervention policies pursued by the Gulf countries, especially the UAE in the Horn of Africa, under observation.
The newspaper points out in a lengthy report that the leaders of the Council wanted to remove the peaceful protesters in front of the army headquarters in Khartoum by force, sending a message that they would not yield to popular pressure to accept the transfer of power to civilians.
Many Sudanese activists wonder if some Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, gave the military council the green light to break the sit-in.
The newspaper added that although Saudi Arabia and the UAE strongly deny their knowledge of breaking the sit-in, the process raised questions and discussions about the role of the two countries in Sudan, and their intervention policies and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to buy concessions to manage ports and other infrastructure facilities in the Horn of Africa.
A Sudanese doctor named Salman Osama says that all the problems suffered by the people of Sudan are because of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt.
Those countries supported the regime of ousted president Omar al-Bashir, who has been the worst as he can be dealing with the people, and now they support the military junta, said Osama, who was treating the wounded.
The newspaper pointed out that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hosted in the city of Jeddah, Lieutenant General Mohammed Hamdan Hamidati, Vice-President of the Military Council just ten days before the disbanding of the sit-in. In the same week, the President of the Council, General Abdul Fattah Burhan visited Abu Dhabi and met with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates hold hopes for Sudan’s military leaders to protect their interests, including keeping Sudanese troops in the Riyadh-led coalition in the war against Yemen’s Houthi group.
The newspaper pointed out that the report of the International Crisis Group that the Saudis and Emiratis trust in the leadership of the generals of the country through the process of transition from one military regime to another, and avoid a break period like the one that occurred in Egypt in 2011.
While the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir hinted last month that Riyadh fears that the Muslim Brotherhood would try to hijack the power transfer in Sudan as it did in Egypt in 2011, the Financial Times said.
The Gulf countries’ interest in the Horn of Africa stems from their keenness to exploit the large markets in the region, pointing to the strategic interests of the desire of those countries to benefit from the region’s agricultural resources and ensure the use of ports and other economic interests.
According to the researcher at the Brookings Institution in Doha, Qatar, Zack Verten, the surge in political, economic and strategic relations is “unprecedented”, pointing out that the two regions “are rushing to become one area.”
The newspaper pointed to the interests of the UAE in the Horn of Africa, especially the establishment of a naval base in the port of “Assab” in Eritrea, and its military intervention in Yemen, and its pledge last year to provide financial and investment assistance to Ethiopia.
According to him, the rush of Saudi Arabia and the UAE towards the Horn of Africa increased after the siege of Qatar, noting that they called on African countries to choose between being on their side or Doha’s.
Vertin says Saudi Arabia and the UAE are rushing to secure “important relations” with Sudan and try to shape the transitional period in that country.
“The Saudis and Emiratis” want to exploit Sudan, its wealth, its working hands and its strategic location, “said the spokesman of the Sudanese Professionals’ Union, Mohammed Yusuf Ahmed Al-Mustapha, stressing that the establishment of a democratic system in Khartoum would make it difficult for them to” achieve their goals.