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64 held in Sudan for El Gezira arson attacks

March 31 - 2020 EL KAMELIN
One of the Kanabi houses torched in El Maleelig, El Gezira (Social media)
One of the Kanabi houses torched in El Maleelig, El Gezira (Social media)

At least 64 people have been charged with arson after homes in El Gezira were torched over the last week. Both the government and Sudanese opposition groups have condemned the arson attacks.

On Friday, about 17 houses belonging to Kanabi people* –traditionally seasonal ‘camp workers’– were burned in Block 3 in El Maeelig in El Kamlin locality. The motive behind the attack seems to be a land ownership issue.

On Monday, Mohamed El Badawi, the executive director of El Kamlin locality announced that 34 residents of El Maeelig district were arrested.

El Badawi verified that the burned houses were owned by Kanabi people. He stressed that those responsible for the attack will be held accountable. He also urged the local authorities to provide 17 tents, food or other basic needs to the affected people. He further appealed to the government to intervene and promote social coexistence in the area.

Political activist Radwan Daoud told Radio Dabanga that the problem began on Wednesday when people went to the El Maeelig police station, and filed a complaint that Kanabi people were trespassing on their lands. “Then the police arrested 12 people from the Kanabi. The next day, people torched a number of houses. 12 houses burned to the ground,” he said.

Daoud confirmed that so far, the police arrested 64 people, and are still searching to arrest the rest. Since Sudan’s independence in 1956, the Kanabi people.have been living under very harsh conditions with limited rights. “Up until now, these people cannot easily own land, they don’t have that rights,” Daoud said. “These houses were burned because they were owned by Kanabi.

In a statement, the Change and Services Committees of El Kamlin locality condemned the violence in El Maeelig. They described the act as evil.

"This is a crime against the residents of the third district of El Maeelig,’’ the statement concluded.

The Governor of El Gezira, Maj Gen Ahmed Sabir, has sent a convoy containing shelter materials and food for those affected. A committee has been formed to assess the damage. A police unit will reinforce security in the area.

The governor emphasised that the law is above everyone and those responsible must be brought to justice. He explained the law is the key to any dispute, and thus any conflict will accordingly be resolved. He assured that after the damage assessment those affected by the violence will be compensated.

He further urged the Sudanese government to intervene and address the problems of the Kanabi, by setting up model villages or other solutions.

* Kanabi

Around 1912, when the El Gezira agricultural project was initiated by the British colonial powers, people moved from western parts of the country, including many from Darfur, to El Gezira as seasonal workers. They settled on the outskirts of villages and near irrigation channels and water banks.

As the successive El Gezira governments considered them temporary workers, they did not provide many services. Their lives can be characterised by poverty and isolation, due to government policies and to discrimination they face based on ethnicity and culture by the surrounding population.

According to figures presented by Dr Jaafar Mohamedein, Secretary General of the Kanabi Congress, in 2018, 2,495,000 Kanabi are living in 2,095 ‘camps’ in El Gezira. They make up 39 per cent of the total population of El Gezira.

As reported by Radio Dabanga in November 2019, a meeting in Khartoum attended by leaders of the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Minni Minawi (SLM-MM) and a representative of Sudan’s Sovereign Council Mohamed El Taayshi, the Kanabi Congress Secretary General stressed the need to document the Kanabi case. He called on the Sudanese government to provide model villages for the workers.


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