Sunday,22 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1249, (4 - 10 June 2015)
Sunday,22 July, 2018
Issue 1249, (4 - 10 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Back in Sudan

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi visited Sudan this week to attend the re-inauguration ceremony of Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, reports Gamal Nkrumah

Al-Ahram Weekly

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi flew to Sudan on Tuesday to participate in the swearing-in ceremony of Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir. While there, he also met with several African heads of state and government in Omdurman, Sudan's twin capital city with Khartoum and the cultural hub of the country.

Al-Sisi's visit signals a profound change for the better in bilateral relations between Egypt and Sudan. It is paradoxical that the Sudanese ruling party, the National Congress headed by Al-Bashir, is now better placed to make the best of relations with Egypt despite its ideological affinity with the Muslim Brotherhood group and ousted former president Mohamed Morsi.

The visit indicates the new priorities of Egypt’s foreign policy under Al-Sisi. The neglect of Africa during the rule of ousted former president Hosni Mubarak was an embarrassment for Egypt, and Al-Sisi’s focus on Africa is seeking to make amends.

Among the African leaders at the ceremony were African Union (AU) Chairman Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, as well as the presidents of Chad, Idriss Deby, Eritrea, Isaias Afewerki, Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh, and Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn. Also present was Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al-Arabi.

The historical ties between Egypt and Sudan are being galvanised with a new dynamism as a result of Al-Sisi’s African policies. "Agriculture will be the moving force of Sudan’s development," Al-Bashir announced during his inaugural speech, no doubt reminding those in the audience of Egypt’s vast commercial and agricultural investments in Sudan.

Trade between the two countries currently amounts to around $850 million, and more investment is planned in agribusiness.

Egypt and Sudan are also developing an Economic Integration Zone that is expected to further amalgamate the economies of the two nations. Qostul Ashkeet, a new highway between the two countries, is expected to boost bilateral trade by $2 to $3 million. The 230 Egyptian projects with capital amounting to about $10.8 billion are a further bonus for the Sudanese economy. And for Egypt, the $97 million in investments represented by 315 Sudanese companies with economic and commercial activities in Egypt is also welcome.

In the not so distant past, one bone of contention between Egypt and Sudan was the dispute over the Halayeb and Shalateen districts. However, the Sudanese leadership now seems to sense that a new wind is blowing from the north, and older leaders representing old habits of thinking are fast losing ground in Sudan.

"It was leaders such as Sheikh Hassan Al-Turabi and the now defunct National Islamic Front who held sway in the early 1990s that led to the deteriorating relations between Egypt and Sudan," Mohamed Fayek, head of Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) and a former minister of information, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The focus now is on the future. Developing the irrigation and drainage network in Sudan and extending the electrical grid to the north are two pivotal aspects of bilateral cooperation.

Al-Bashir must have felt a tinge of regret at the state of affairs between the two countries in the past. He is obviously determined to work out a brighter future for relations in the future with the full backing of Al-Sisi. This new goodwill will serve further to ignite the development potential of the two nations.

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