Sudanese protesters make contemptuous hand gestures in front of a banner depicting ousted and detained president Omar al-Bashir, during a protest outside the army headquarters in the capital Khartoum. Photo: AFP

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Sunday pledged $3 billion in financial support for Sudan following the military overthrow of the northeast African country’s leader Omar al-Bashir.

The oil-rich Gulf states pledged to inject $500 million into the Sudanese central bank and $2.5 billion to help provide food, medicine and petroleum products, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.

It did not specify if the money is a gift or a loan.

The deposit for the central bank is aimed at shoring up the Sudanese pound, the SPA said.

In recent years, Sudan has been hit by an acute lack of dollars, a key factor behind the nationwide protests that led to the toppling of Bashir by the army this month.

After weeks of silence on Sudan’s political turmoil, Saudi Arabia and the UAE called for “stability” and a “peaceful transition” in the days following Bashir’s ouster.

Sudan plays a key role in the regional interests of Saudi Arabia and its allies, siding with Riyadh against Shiite Iran and providing troops in the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen’s war.

Both Gulf nations have voiced backing for Sudan’s military rulers, who are facing calls from protesters to cede power to a civilian transitional government.

Since Bashir’s ouster, the Sudanese pound has steadily strengthened on the black market, and on Sunday it jumped to 45 per dollar, after trading at 72 at one stage last week.

The official exchange rate is 47.5 pounds to the dollar.

Earlier media reports that Saudi Arabia was expected to send aid to Sudan were seen as a factor boosting the pound.

The Sudanese currency had plunged even after the United States lifted its 20-year-old trade embargo on the country in October 2017.

Expectations that the end of US sanctions would bring an economic recovery failed to materialize, putting pressure on the pound.

The country’s economic crisis has deepened since the secession of South Sudan in 2011 that took away the bulk of oil earnings.

– with reporting by AFP

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