Egypt in critical status: Between Emirati pressure and the alliance with Sudanese military

After months of tensions, armed conflict erupted between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, an official militia formed in 2013. Disputes started last December after the Framework Agreement between the Sudanese military and the Freedom and Change Forces that included a single patriot and professional Sudanese army under a civil government. The Sudanese military suggested full integration of the RSF within the military over two years, while the RSF, accepting integration theoretically, adhered to an independent command related directly to the civil government and a 10-year process of integration.

Climax was reached last March when the military missionary withdrew from the military and security reform workshop, protesting the RSF’s reluctance to integrate. For the military, the integration meant the requalification of elements of the RSF and the dismissal of recent recruits employed after April 11, 2019, when the army and the RSF overthrew the former Sudanese president, Omar Al Bashir. The RSF was established in 2013 within the struggle against militant insurgency in Darfur, gathering state-sponsored tribal militias known as Janjaweed. Balancing the military’s influence, Bashir used the RSF to manage the trading of Sudan’s gold production and exports outside the state institutions and provide security services to the Gulf countries in Yemen and the European Union by working borders against illegal migration. During the Sudanese uprising in 2018-9, Bashir allowed the RSF into Khartoum, hoping to stop a probable military coup, but the RSF allied with the Sudanese Armed Forces in ousting him. The leader of the RSF, Hamidti, became the second person in the new authority system as the vice president of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council after the general commander of the Sudanese military, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

Hamidti was beside Burhan when the latter conducted a coup in October 2021 against the political agreement with FCF in 2019, refusing to deliver authority to the civil parties. However, the continued protests against the coup pushed Hamidti to distance himself, accusing Burhan of greed for power. The Egyptian military-based regime used to invest in supporting the Sudanese Armed Forces espousing a kind of military comradeship. The Sudanese Armed Forces, in response, sided with Egypt against Ethiopia in the dispute over the Renaissance Dam on the Nile River and propped the military cooperation between both countries. Hamidti, on the contrary, has kept solid private ties with Eretria’s Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmad. While the Sudanese military engaged the Ethiopian one over border conflicts, Hamidti visited Addis Ababa to maintain peaceful relations with Abiy Ahmed. Instead of Egypt, the RSF has sought sponsorship from the Emirates, which the RSF used to cooperate economically and in security affairs. Just after the eruption of the conflict, the RSF took over Marwe Airbase and dealt with Egyptian militaries there as prisoners of war, releasing humiliating videos of detaining them and holding Egyptian air fighters. Despite Hamidti’s excuse statements, the videos expressed the gap between the RSF and Egypt.

Egypt, having a committed ally in Sudan, was to support its partner, the Sudanese military. However, it found itself in a critical situation. Suffering an unprecedented economic crisis, Egypt depends on the Gulf countries to finance the sluggish Egyptian economy through acquisitions and deposits. On the other hand, the Gulf countries demand Egypt of serious reform of economic policies as a condition of Gulf financing. Opposing Emirati interests in Sudan is no choice for Egypt in such a financial situation. The Egyptian regime finds itself in an unenviable position between the national security necessity of maintaining order in Sudan under a pro-Egypt regime and the economic condition of appeasing the Gulf countries’ interests.