UAE grants $20 million for Sudan war victims, again denies supplying arms to RSF

Paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces in Merowe in northern Sudan, April 12 (RSF)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) signed a $20 million agreement to aid displaced people and refugees in Sudan and neighbouring regions last week. On Saturday, the Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations strongly rejected the allegations of the Sudanese de facto government that the country is supplying weapons to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). According to a recent study of the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA), Sudan is surrounded by major arms-trafficking hubs.

The $20 million agreement was formally signed at the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva by Sultan Al Shamsi, Assistant Minister for International Development Affairs in the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Wednesday.

The Emirates News Agency reported that the UAE contribution will primarily aid in improving shelter, healthcare, and basic services for thousands of displaced people in both Sudan and South Sudan.

“Our commitment to humanitarian causes is reinforced through strategic partnerships such as this one with UNHCR. Together, we can make a significant impact on the ground in Sudan, providing relief and hope to the most vulnerable,” UAE Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Lana Nusseibeh stated after the signing ceremony. “We look forward to working with other partners to ensure the commitments made in Paris are made tangible on the ground.”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi added that the people of Sudan “are enduring the dreadful consequences of this brutal war and need urgent support. State contributions are essential in providing much-needed lifesaving humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people in Sudan forced to flee.”

The UAE contribution to the UNHCR is part of a broader commitment of $70 million dedicated to addressing urgent humanitarian needs in Sudan, through UN agencies and humanitarian organisations. This funding is a substantial portion of the $100 million pledge made by the UAE at the International Humanitarian Conference for Sudan and Neighbouring Countries in Paris in April.

This donation takes the total amount of UAE aid to Sudan in the past 10 years to more than $3.5 billion.

Representatives of the UAE and UNHCR sign a US$20 million agreement for humanitarian operations in Sudan, Geneva, June 26 (Photo: WAM)

‘No arms supply’

On Saturday, the Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations published a lengthy response to the letter from the Permanent Sudanese Representative to the UN on 10 June, in which the Sudanese de facto government again accused the Emirates of providing the RSF with weapons.

A few months after war broke out between the SAF and RSF in Khartoum on April 15, reports about UAE military support to the RSF appeared.  

In November, SAF Deputy Commander-in-Chief Lt Gen Yasir El Atta unleashed harsh criticism against the UAE and other countries he accused of supporting RSF. This led to fears among Sudanese living in the UAE, Sudan’s primary trading partner over the past two decades, and the expulsion of 15 Emirati diplomats from Port Sudan. A month later, US Congress members urged the UAE foreign affairs minister to end his country’s support to the RSF.

The Sudanese representative to the UN repeatedly protested the military support at the UN Security Council, and on June 18, he and the UAE representative clashed over the subject during another UNSC session.

In its official response to the June 10 letter on Saturday, the UAE says that “We wish to fully address those spurious allegations, but at the outset, we reaffirm our support for efforts to de-escalate tensions, implement a ceasefire and advance negotiations leading to the restoration of a legitimate government that is representative of all Sudanese people”.

After elaborately stating its concerns about the “devastating impacts of the conflict in Sudan” and calling on the international community to “significantly increase its support” to the war-torn country, the UAE expresses its “regrets that the Sudanese representative, who represents one of the warring parties, the SAF, has once again abused his participation in a meeting of the Security Council to attempt to shift the blame for the situation in Sudan.

“In particular, he has presented a skewed narrative of the activities of the SAF and its allied militias, to justify, rationalise and defend their actions, including their obstruction of the delivery of humanitarian aid and other violations of international humanitarian law as well as their continued refusal to participate in peace talks.”

The statement speaks of fabrications and the dubious photographs annexed to the Sudanese representative’s letter of 10 June 2024, “which are provided without context or corroborating evidence” and should be summarily disregarded. “The allegations made by the Sudanese representative regarding the supply of arms and military equipment are part of a duplicitous media disinformation campaign by the SAF.”

The UAE statement further explains how it has provided military assistance to the military in Sudan prior to the outbreak of the conflict in April 2023. “The support and assistance by the UAE were consistent with our obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions. The UAE has not provided any arms or related materiel of any kind to any of the warring parties since the start of the conflict.”

Separately, the UAE says it is “appalled that the Sudanese representative used the Security Council meeting on 18 June 2024 to attempt to convince the international community that there is no looming famine in Sudan. This denial is a blatant disregard for the suffering of the Sudanese people and an attempt to downplay the severe humanitarian crisis”.

The Emirates further welcomed “the recent call by the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) for an extraordinary summit to address the escalating war in Sudan.

“The UAE joins the AU PSC’s call on the leaders of the warring factions to meet under the auspices of the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development without further delay and to participate in the forthcoming all-inclusive Sudan political dialogue process in Addis Ababa on 10 to 15 July 2024.”