Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has faced a new protest movement for more than three weeks, but continues to benefit from the support of allied countries worried about the stability of a region already torn by the conflict.
"All parties in the region (Middle East) are at loggerheads, but they have somehow agreed on Bashir," said Abdelwahab al-Affendi, a scholar at the University Institute of Studies in Doha. By supporting the continuity in this Arab country of North Africa, "they think that any alternative may not be favorable to them".
Sudan has been plagued since December 19 on the occasion of demonstrations caused by the increase in the price of bread. These protests quickly turned into a protest against Omar al-Bashir, the biggest challenge the president has faced since he came to power in 1989, experts say.
Twenty-two people died from the start of the movement, according to an official report. International NGOs speak of at least 40 deaths.
– "Economic pressures" –
While President Bashir is disputed in his country, he still enjoys the support of his regional allies such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
"Egypt fully supports the security and stability of Sudan, which are critical to its national security," President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi told a councilor from the Sudanese president received in Cairo last week.
After the deterioration of relations in 2017, when Bashir accused Egypt of supporting Sudanese opponents, Cairo and Khartoum recently overcame their differences. In particular, Sudan revoked the ban on imports of products from Egypt in October, imposed for 17 months.
And a few days after the protests began, the Qatari emirate, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, invited the Sudanese president to offer his help.
Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia "are against any kind of successful insurrection" in Sudan, according to Affendi. "They think that if it happens, they will be the next" on the list, with the memory of the Arab spring of 2011.
A European diplomat on condition of anonymity also notes that Mr. Bashir's foreign policy "is dictated on all sides by economic pressures".
Sudan's economy suffered much from the US embargo imposed in 1997 on Khartoum's alleged support for Islamist groups. The regime had welcomed Osama bin Laden in the '90s.
The enhanced cooperation with Washington has certainly allowed the removal of this embargo in 2017 but, according to experts, this did not have the expected results, especially since the United States has kept Sudan in the list of countries that support the "terrorism".
To survive, Sudan needs to find other partners.
In December 2018, a few days before the start of the protest, Bashir met his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, becoming the first Arab head of state to visit Syria after the eruption of the conflict in 2011 .
According to experts, the idea was to approach Russia, an unshakeable ally of the Syrian regime and power in the Middle East.
– Gateway for Africa –
In 2016, the Sudanese president released his Iranian ally for Saudi Arabia, joining the regional coalition led by Ryad against the rebels in Yemen, supported by Tehran. According to media reports, hundreds of Sudanese soldiers are fighting among the coalition ranks in Yemen.
"In return, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates gave Bashir just enough to stay afloat," Affendi says, citing financial aid to Khartoum.
Other powers like China have invested billions of dollars in Sudan in the last few decades.
"For countries like China and Russia, Sudan is a gateway to Africa," said the diplomat. "Whether they are Westerners or anyone, no one wants Sudan to collapse."
If the United States and the European Union "do not support Bashir" – sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes and genocide in Darfur (west) – work with Khartoum to ensure that "Sudan remains stable ", indicates the European diplomatic source.
Because any instability in this country could lead to a new wave of migration to Europe, according to this source.
The strategic position of Sudan in the Horn of Africa is an advantage for Bashir, said Amal el-Taweel, an analyst at the Al-Ahram Center for political and strategic studies in Cairo.
"The international and regional powers will not let Sudan collapse," he told Afp, saying that everything now depends "on how the power balance on the street will change."
According to the researcher, these powers also fear that "a new bastion of extremists" will emerge in Sudan because of instability.