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Muslim Brotherhood exiles from Egypt face uncertain future in Sudan

Egyptians affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood who sought refuge in Sudan following the 2013 crackdown are worried about their fate now that President Omar al-Bashir has been ousted.

A Sudanese military council convened April 11 to discuss overthrowing President Omar al-Bashir, against whom the Sudanese had been protesting since December 2018. Hours after the meeting, Defense Minister Awad Ibn Auf announced that Bashir would be ousted and a new military council formed to govern the country for two years, after which power would transition to an elected civilian president.

While the situation seems to be advancing positively for the Sudanese people, Egyptians who had fled to Sudan seem to think otherwise, particularly after the coup against Bashir, who had supported the Muslim Brotherhood members taking refuge there.

There is no official tally of the Egyptians who fled to Sudan since Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in 2013, but there are a large number of Brotherhood leaders, including parliament members, a Brotherhood deputy general counsel and others, as well as Brotherhood members and young affiliates.

Ismail Assem, a Brotherhood member who fled after being indicted for the attempted assassination of a deputy attorney general in 2016, told Al-Monitor that the situation in Sudan has been tenuous since Bashir’s ouster. He noted that the Brotherhood is panicking as all the leaders in Bashir’s party and the regime, with whom they used to communicate, are unreachable, either in detention or on the run.

Assem said that a large number of young Brotherhood members are thinking of getting out of Sudan as soon as possible, before they are arrested. He believes most would probably choose Malaysia or Korea as their destinations since they are among the countries that allow Egyptian passport holders to obtain a visa on arrival without the need for a security check.

The new military council in Sudan has not addressed the situation of the Egyptian Brotherhood there in any of its statements. Yet fears among Egyptian fugitives are growing.

Egyptians can enter Sudan without a visa or security approvals under the Four Freedoms Agreement, which allows passport holders of either country to enter, stay and own property without issue.

Mohammad Fathi, a Brotherhood leader who had fled to Sudan, explained the circumstances of the Brotherhood there before Bashir’s ouster.

The Sudanese state has very weak resources, Fathi told Al-Monitor, and has enough trouble providing for its own citizens. Providing economic support to members of the Egyptian Brotherhood is unrealistic, Fathi explained. The state was able to provide a safe haven for all the Brotherhood members fleeing Egypt, whether they had been sentenced to imprisonment or were fleeing the security crackdown in Egypt.

Fathi pointed out that Sudan has served as a transit point for Egyptian fugitives from which they could leave for elsewhere. He noted, that many decided to stay in Sudan, but now wish to leave.

Bashir himself came to power in 1989 following a military coup against the government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi after coordinating with the head of the National Islamic Front, Hassan al-Turabi, who was previously a leader in the Sudanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A Brotherhood source in Sudan told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that Brotherhood officials are seeking to meet with leaders of the Sudanese military council or state officials to discuss the fate of young Brotherhood affiliates in Sudan. He noted that they want to discuss coming to an agreement with the military on a way for them to leave the country should Sudanese officials decide they are unwelcome.

Hani Raslan, a researcher on the Nile Basin and Sudanese affairs at Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor that Brotherhood members in Sudan have failed to find an alternative country after fleeing Egypt. The Brotherhood’s position in Sudan will likely be discussed between the Egyptian regime and its new Sudan counterpart, he noted.

Raslan predicted that the current Sudanese regime will work to improve relations with countries with which relations have been strained over the past period by settling differences or discussing outstanding issues, such as the fleeing Brotherhood members.

Al-Monitor contacted an official at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to find out if the government will officially request the return of the Brotherhood members who fled to Sudan. But the official refused to answer, saying it is too early to discuss the issue.