Former Sovereignty Council member Siddig Tawir told Radio Dabanga on Saturday that the visit by the Deputy Chairman of the Sovereignty Council, Mohamed ‘Hemeti’ Dagalo, to Russia under these circumstances can be called “an adventure”. He explained that “the isolation that Sudan is experiencing after the October 25 coup is what prompted Hemeti to this adventure”.
The visit hopes “to advance relations between Sudan and Russia to broader horizons, and strengthen the existing cooperation between us in various fields,” Hemeti said.
The official Sudan News Agency (SUNA) reports that Hemeti met with the Russian Deputy Minister of Defence, Alexander Fomin, in Moscow yesterday. Fomin said that his country is proud of the distinguished historical friendship that binds it with Sudan and declared the keenness of Russia to consolidate its cooperation and coordination with Sudan in all forms.
Political analyst Siddig El Zeylei considers the visit of the deputy head of the coup council to Russia as a direct reflection of the crisis which the country entered after the October 25 coup.
He told Radio Dabanga on Saturday that the timing of Hemeti’s visit as inappropriate and as indicating his lack of understanding of the current international crisis by supporting the Russian position in its war against Ukraine. He stressed that Sudan’s current crises are “a result of this group’s control of power in the country” and that “the unity of the opposition and the revolutionary force is the only way to bring down this bloody regime”.
El Zeylei explained that only the Foreign Ministry should be responsible for foreign relations. Yet before and after the October 25 coup, Hemeti has assumed the roles of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. El Zeylei referred to his relations with Israel, his shuttle flights between Israel and the UAE, his visit to Ethiopia, and now he his turning to Russia.
Tawir asserts that junta leader Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan and Hemeti believe that Sudan’s foreign relations are based on the choices of individuals outside the institutional frameworks. He also pointed out that the composition of the delegation that accompanied Hemeti to Russia reveals the self-interests of the delegation.
The delegation includes Jibril Ibrahim, Minister of Financial Affairs and formerly leader of the Justice and Equality rebel movement.
Red Sea naval base
Moscow is keen to establish a naval base in the Red Sea. In December 2020, Russia signed an agreement with Sudan to establish a navy base in Port Sudan in Red Sea state for at least 25 years. The deal, published on the official portal of government documents, allows Russia to keep up to four navy ships in the Red Sea, including nuclear powered ones.
The agreement can be automatically extended for 10 year periods if none of the parties object.
The document states that the Russian navy base should “help strengthen peace and stability in the region” and is not directed against any third parties. In exchange for Sudan’s permission to set up the base, Russia will provide Sudan with weapons and military equipment.
In 2019, Sudan became the second-largest purchaser of Russian arms in Africa after Algeria, with half of Sudan’s total arms acquisitions sourced from Russia.
In March 2021, the Sudanese Naval Forces received a visiting Russian frigate which docked in Port Sudan. The visit by the Russian naval vessel fell within the framework of progressing relations between Sudan and Russia, and boosting cooperation between the Sudanese Navy with its Russian counterpart.
Former president Omar Al Bashir approved entry of a Russian gold mining company into the country and was negotiating construction of a Russian oil refinery, as well as a Russian naval base, when he was overthrown.