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Intelligence brief: Qatari aid, finance and foreign policy in Sudan

by Marc van Oudheusden, Scott Hickie and Chris Abbott
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir shakes hands with his Chadian counterpart, Idriss Deby, as Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani looks on after the official signing of a peace accord between Sudan and Darfur rebel group LJM in Doha, 14 July 2011 (Photo: Reuters)
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir shakes hands with his Chadian counterpart, Idriss Deby, as Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani looks on after the official signing of a peace accord between Sudan and Darfur rebel group LJM in Doha, 14 July 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

Summary

1) What financial assistance has the Qatari government provided to Sudan since September 2011?

There is limited open source intelligence regarding the financial assistance provided by Qatar to Sudan. It is known that in 2012-13, Qatar pledged $2 billion (USD) through the purchase of multi-sector treasury bonds from the Central Bank of Sudan, though only $500 million to $1.5 billion is thought to have been disbursed so far. Qatar also provided up to $130.5 million in development assistance (with a further $412 million pledged) and at least $543 million in investment. For context, in 2010-11, Qatar gave Sudan approximately $90 million in aid and the value of Qatari investments in the country over 2007-11 reached over $1.5 billion in total.

2) Has Qatar conditioned its funding to Sudan? What sectors has the money been earmarked for?

A significant proportion of funding provided by Qatar to the Sudanese government is connected to the security situation in Darfur and the implementation of the Darfur peace agreement. Funds are also invested in projects that serve Qatar’s own strategic interests, such as agricultural projects, large infrastructure projects and other investment opportunities. In addition, some funds have been provided to support the Sudanese government in its attempts to build up institutions, such as guaranteeing deposits in the national bank, and support to Sudanese monetary policy and the Sudanese pound. Funds have also been provided for Sudanese efforts to enhance investment opportunities – for example, electricity and power linkage projects in cooperation with Egypt.

3) What is Qatar’s stance in relation to South Kordofan and Blue Nile states?

Qatari officials have taken an increasingly active diplomatic role in recent years, seeking to position themselves as mediators and interlocutors in a number of regional conflicts, including Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Darfur. Qatar is also directly concerned with return on investment. Therefore, it is most likely inclined to have a positive and supportive approach towards any solution for the conflict in the south of Sudan. However, Qatar has not taken any initiative to play the role of mediator in relation to South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and has remained in the background. It is uncertain, though, whether or not this passive stance will continue if another conflict in south Sudan threatens Qatar’s efforts to create stability and security in Darfur.

4) Who are the policymakers driving Qatari policy on Sudan?

Former prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani was the author of Qatar’s rise to prominence as a key regional player. However, in June 2013 he was removed from both posts by the new emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani was appointment as prime minister and Dr. Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah as foreign minister. This change is thought to reflect a shift in foreign policy, whereby Qatar is expected to maintain a lower global profile. It is too early to assess the implications of this shift for Qatari policy towards Sudan. However, it is Qatar’s deputy prime minister, Ahmed bin Abdullah Al Mahmoud, who has so far largely been responsible for policy towards development in Sudan, and he remains in post at present. While the majority of political decision-making is organised around Qatar’s national leadership, principally the emir, there are several key officials within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who will likely have some influence over the implementation of Qatari policy towards Sudan.

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