UAE pushes for debt relief and aid to halt Sudan’s economic collapse

World Bank and IMF funds being used to incentivise Sudanese military to return power to civilians

Sudanese women buy meat from a butcher shop in the capital Khartoum, where economic mismanagement, internal conflicts and protests since last year's coup have pushed millions towards hunger. AFP
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The UAE on Tuesday pushed for debt relief and more aid for Sudan, as western nations and international financial institutions held back assistance in an attempt to encourage the country's military leaders to return to civilian rule.

Amiera Al Hefeiti, the UAE’s deputy UN envoy, warned of an “alarming economic situation” in Sudan, where poverty and hunger have worsened since a military power grab last year.

Some western nations have cut funding to Sudan and said it could lose out on billions of dollars of assistance from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund unless the military hands back power to civilians.

“In light of the alarming economic situation, we believe that debt relief packages and development assistance from international financial institutions and other international donors remain critical to prevent Sudan's economy from collapsing,” Ms Al Hefeiti said in New York.

Donors have paid only 10 per cent of the $1.9 billion sought in this year’s UN aid plan for Sudan and 39 per cent of the country’s 44 million people will not have enough food to eat by September, she told the UN Security Council.

The UN says global increases in grain prices due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have worsened the situation in Sudan, pushing food prices out of reach for many Sudanese people.

“The continued suspension of international assistance is negatively affecting the dire economic situation in Sudan, which is already exacerbated by the current geopolitical tension, climate change and the disruption of the agricultural season,” said Ms Al Hefeiti.

The administration of US President Joe Biden this week warned Americans against doing business with Sudanese companies linked to army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and his ruling clique, which seized power on October 25.

The US departments of State, Commerce, Treasury and Labour issued an advisory message on Monday warning of “reputational risks” and human rights problems for those trading with Sudan’s military elite.

Western nations have sought to pressure Gen Al Burhan into returning power to civilians, saying Sudan could lose billions of dollars in World Bank aid as well as the IMF programme there and $19bn in associated debt relief.

The UN’s top body met against a backdrop of continuing tension in Sudan, where security forces on Saturday killed one protester in renewed demonstrations against the military takeover.

That latest death in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city, brought to 96 the toll from a crackdown on anti-coup protests that have regularly roiled the country since the putsch.

The UN, along with the African Union and regional bloc the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, have been pushing for Sudanese-led talks to resolve the crisis after the coup in the north-east African country, which is among the world's poorest.

But civilian forces have refused to enter talks with the military, while Gen Al Burhan has repeatedly threatened to expel UN envoy Volker Perthes, accusing him of interfering in internal affairs.

Updated: May 24, 2022, 6:43 PM