Two significant events occurred in Sudan in the last week. Neither gained much publicity.
On June 30, Sudan marked 25 years of the National Salvation Revolution—the military coup instigated by the Muslim Brothers to forestall the peace agreement, due to be signed between Prime Minister Sadiq al Mahdi and SPLA Commander-in-Chief John Garang, on July 4, 1989. As every Sudanese knows, there has never been such a favorable agreement on the table in the succeeding quarter of a century.
No coup ever having taken place in Sudan in the face of Egyptian opposition, the Muslim Brothers took particular care to deceive the Egyptians. Part of the trick was sending the civilian Islamists, notably Hassan al Turabi, to prison.
President Omar al Bashir and his government know that there is little to celebrate save the regime’s survival.
Three days earlier, the new President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al Sisi, stopped in Khartoum on his way home from the African Union Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Immediately following the July 3, 2013 coup that overthrew the government of President Mohamed Morsi, the AU took the principled decision to suspend Egypt’s participation in the activities of the AU. That suspension was lifted after May’s elections, although the AU does not normally approve of an election that brings a coup-maker to power. However, the AU had made its point, and both Egypt and the AU need one another, so the country was readmitted.
The limited press coverage of al Sisi’s visit to Khartoum focused on three issues. One was the Nile Waters—specifically Sudan’s support for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The second was recent disputes over disputed area Halaib Triangle, on their common boundary. Third was al Sisi’s comment to a Lebanese TV channel that “We consider Sudan part of Egypt,” a remark that generated a street protest in Khartoum.
But al Sisi’s real agenda was the Muslim Brothers. He has committed himself to eradicating the Muslim Brothers as a political force not only in Egypt, but also in the wider region. In this, he has the strong support of Saudi Arabia. They have combined to press Qatar into full retreat and their sympathies for General Khalifa Haftar in Libya. They would like to see nationalist military officers take charge in Sudan. In a recent article, Prof. Farag Abdel Fatah has articulated a perspective on Islam in Sudanese politics, close to the Egyptian government’s thinking.
President al Sisi faces enormous domestic challenges. Even with Saudi Arabia’s vast financial muscle to back him up, the Egyptian president cannot seriously contemplate an effort to eradicate the Muslim Brothers from Sudanese political life.