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Al Ahram Weekly - Egypt
The fact that the head of the Sudanese Transitional Military Council (TMC), Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan, chose Cairo as a destination for his first visit outside Sudan since the removal of former president Omar Al-Bashir in early April is definitely a positive and welcomed step. Al-Burhan, in his second home, was warmly received by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, whose priority has always been maintaining good relations with Sudan and its brotherly people.
Since popular protests broke out in Sudan a few months ago, Egypt’s stance was based on a number of clear principles, topped with respect for the will of the Sudanese people and their decisions. Ties between Egypt and Sudan are not like relations with any other neighbouring country, considering the historic links between peoples of the two nations, and the fact that both share the same River Nile water. Millions of Sudanese people live like Egyptians in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt, while Egyptians never feel like strangers in Khartoum.
Those historic bonds will never change, even when governments disagree over policies and priorities, as the situation had been with former president Al-Bashir. Since he took office in 1989, Al-Bashir’s policies were not always welcomed in Cairo, especially after he disregarded Egypt’s security concerns and opened his country for extremist and outlawed groups. Those groups did not only include the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood organisation, but even the leader of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and members of Egypt’s Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya who later claimed responsibility for an attempt to assassinate Egypt’s former president in 1995.
It is no secret, as well, that Al-Bashir never welcomed the change that took place in Egypt in early July 2013, with the removal of the former Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, following the group’s drastic failure in running the country, resulting in the widest ever popular protests all over Egypt. Nevertheless, President Al-Sisi maintained an open channel of communication with Khartoum, recognising the strategic ties between the peoples of Egypt and Sudan, and the critical talks over Egypt’s share of River Nile water that joins Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.
At the same time, and considering what Egypt experienced over the past eight years following a similar popular revolt against president Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, Cairo repeatedly expressed its concern to maintain Sudan’s unity and preserve key state institutions, such as the army and security agencies.
Arab countries that suffer many challenges, topped with the need to achieve high development rates and combat poverty and illiteracy, cannot afford the failure or collapse of state institutions. This would mean the collapse of the entire state and increasing the hardships of the peoples living in those countries.
Thus, when the TMC announced that it would take responsibility for running the country following Al-Bashir’s removal, Cairo immediately welcomed the move. Like Egypt’s army, the Sudanese armed forces also sided with the demands of the Sudanese people, recognising that the priority is to protect the country and its people.
In his talks with Al-Burhan, President Al-Sisi affirmed Egypt’s full support for Sudan’s security and stability. He also expressed Egypt’s readiness to provide its Sudanese brothers with assistance in addressing the current challenges in line with the aspirations of the Sudanese people and away from external interference. Those countries that supported the failed policies of Al-Bashir, namely Turkey and Qatar, are unlikely to stop interfering in Sudan’s affairs, considering the alliances they managed to build with the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist groups in Sudan over the many years Al-Bashir spent in office. Ankara and Doha, that invested billions of dollars to support Al-Bashir, certainly felt ignored when Al-Burhan recently visited Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. A few days before, his deputy was in Riyadh for talks with the Saudi crown prince.
Following his talks with Al-Sisi, Al-Burhan hailed close ties between Egypt and Sudan, praising existing efforts to enhance the bonds of mutual cooperation in various fields. He also praised Egypt’s unlimited support for the Sudanese people and their choices.
Cairo will also not spare any effort to assure Arab, African and international support for Sudan and its people, coordinating regional and international efforts to help the brotherly Sudan achieve economic prosperity. As current chair of the African Union, Cairo will certainly do much to help bolster Sudan in this critical transitional stage.