Saudi Arabia deposits $250m in Sudan central bank as transition talks resume

Aid intended to stabilise Sudan during transition from authoritarian rule of Omar Al Bashir

Sudanese protesters gather near the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum on May 17, 2019, during an ongoing sit-in demanding a civilian-led government transition.  / AFP / ASHRAF SHAZLY
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Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it had deposited $250 million in Sudan's central bank as part of a support package for the country following the overthrow of longtime leader Omar Al Bashir.

"The ministry of finance has deposited 937.5 million Saudi riyals into the central bank of Sudan," it said in a statement.

The sum is part of a combined $3 billion in aid pledged by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to help stabilise Sudan during its post-Bashir transition. The UAE announced it was depositing $250m in Sudan's central bank in late April.

"$500 million has been provided by both countries ... to strengthen its financial position," the Saudi finance ministry said.

The remaining $2.5bn will be used to help provide food, medicine and petroleum products, the official Saudi Press Agency said last month.

Mr Al Bashir's removal by the military last month was triggered by weeks of protests over dire living conditions caused by an economic crisis. The Transitional Military Council now governing the country is in talks with protest leaders and political parties on how to return the country to civilian rule.

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, has said the aid package was intended to help Sudan emerge as a stable Arab state and that he hoped the country would be standing on its own feet within the three-year transition agreed to between the military and protesters.

Talks on the transition were to resume in Khartoum after iftar on Sunday after a three-day suspension. The main focus will be the representation of the two sides in a "sovereign council" that will collectively act as head of state with some far-reaching powers and ceremonial duties. The protest leaders want civilians to lead and form the majority of the 11-seat council. The military has balked at this, insisting that one of their own lead the proposed body and that the generals are the majority.

Protest leaders reiterated their demand in a statement released on Sunday, saying they were determined that the new ruling body be "led by a civilian as its chairman and with a limited military representation".

The negotiations resume after the military suspended the talks for three days to protest against what it called the provocation of the armed forces by protesters staging a sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, since April 6. The military also accused the protesters of attempting to expand the site of the sit-in, erecting barricades to block vital roads and affecting the flow of traffic in the capital.

The military removed Mr Al Bashir, a general-turned-president, on April 11 following four months of deadly street protests against his Islamist government. It says it has sided with the people of Sudan against a regime that was determined to use lethal force against protesters.

Mr Al Bashir, now in detention, faces charges of money laundering and conspiring to kill protesters. Nearly 100 protesters have died in the unrest that began in December.

A three-year transitional period is a compromise reached last week by the generals and the protest leaders, who had wanted two and four years respectively. The first six months of the three years would be devoted to finding a peaceful end to armed conflicts in three Sudanese regions: Darfur and Nuba mountains in the west and Blue Nile south of Khartoum.

The two sides also agreed that the majority of a proposed 300-seat legislative would be from the protest leaders grouped under an umbrella of political parties and trade unions called the Declaration of the Forces for Freedom and Change. The remainder will be jointly selected by the protest leaders and the generals.