The Sudanese Crisis. A Case Study to Understand the Motivations, Behaviours and Effects of the Middle Eastern Players' Involvement in Africa.

Dr. Federico Donelli

On 6 April 2019, the anniversary of the last successful Sudanese uprising in 1985, the protesters who had been demanding Omar al-Bashir’s resignation since December began their sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum. The pressure led to military leaders intervening and forcing Bashir to resign as President of Sudan. A few weeks later, the protests have not subsided. Besides the Transitional Military Council (TMC), the targets of the protests were two Gulf monarchies, the UAE and the KSA, accused to meddling in their country. The Sudanese events have highlighted a long-standing phenomenon, namely the involvement of Middle Eastern countries in the politics of the Horn of Africa (HOA). Some countries such as KSA, Egypt and Israel have been involved since the 1960s. Others, such as Turkey, Iran, the UAE and Qatar are engaged approximately by two decades. Indeed, following a period of cooling due to both systemic (brief American hegemony) and regional constraints (Iraq war), the so-called post-Arab Spring era has revived the Middle Eastern scramble for the HOA. As a result of the ongoing reshuffle of the ME balances, the main regional players have widened the competition to neighbouring areas. The HOA is particularly receptive because of its several proximities (geographical, cultural and historical) with the ME and the high level of economic disparity. Further, the outbreak of Yemeni civil war has elevated the strategic importance of the HOA. Since then, the key regional players have been competing hard to gain the political support of the African states.

The paper aims to highlight the attitude of the various ME actors in the Sudanese crisis and the multifaceted factors that led them to intervene or choose to take a step back. The rationale behind this study is that the recent events in Sudan provide a laboratory (micro) for the potential effects (macro) of the increasing interactions among ME and HOA countries. Drawing within a multi-level analysis this paper seeks to grasp the determinants that have led ME players to broaden the traditional boundaries of regional competition, and it tries to predict the potential mid-term effects.