Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have announced a joint package of aid worth $3 billion for Sudan, where military leaders seized power from President Omar al-Bashir last week.
The two Persian Gulf Arab countries said in a statement carried by their state news agencies on Sunday that they would deposit some $500 million in Sudan’s central bank.
The Saudi Press Agency claimed that the aid was intended to strengthen Sudan’s financial position, ease the pressure on the Sudanese pound and increase stability in the exchange rate.
However, the package is being viewed as an attempt to prop up Sudan’s military rulers who are facing mounting pressure from protesters to cede power to a civilian government.
The protesters, who remain camped out near the Defense Ministry in Khartoum since Bashir was ousted on April 11, have demonstrated in large numbers over the past three days, pressing for a rapid transition to a civilian rule.
Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been courting Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who was sworn in on Friday as the head of ruling junta, the Transitional Military Council (TMC).
Burhan said on Sunday the military council is committed to transferring power to a civilian body, but protesters are frustrated with the junta dragging its feet on its implementation.
A coalition of protesters and opposition groups said the TMC is not serious about handing over power to civilians, describing the council as an “extension of the old regime”.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have ties with Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, through their participation in the kingdom’s protracted war on Yemen.
The two countries have expressed support for measures taken by the Transitional Military Council following Bashir’s ouster.
Last week, Burhan praised Sudan’s distinguished relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the official SUNA news agency reported.
Burhan met with a joint delegation from Riyadh and Abu Dhabi last week, and received a verbal message from their leaders.
Analysts warn that both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are striving to influence the transition process by backing the military council.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE had cultivated close ties with Bashir prior to his ouster and were reportedly exhorting him to forge relations with Israel.
However, as Bashir’s position became precarious, the head of Mossad met with his Sudanese counterpart in Germany as part of a secret plan by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE to oust him, London-based Middle East Eye reported in March.
In January, Bashir lamented that he had fallen for advice from unknown parties to normalize ties with Israel in order to ensure stability in his country, but had seen the situation spiral out of hand.
Sudan, under Bashir, had forged close relations with Saudi Arabia in recent years after renouncing ties with Iran.
Faced with months of protests across Sudan, Bashir tried to backpedal on some of his policies, sacking a number of his close associates, but those measures made him even weaker and he was ultimately toppled on April 11.