Members of the now-suspended Empowerment Removal Committee* (ERC) have denounced the statements by Minni Arko Minawi, who said on Sunday that he holds the committee responsible for the flooding of large areas in El Gezira due to the confiscation of tools and machinery used to dig and maintain irrigation canals.
The Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) leader accused the committee of having aggravated the situation in El Gezira by having confiscated machinery for digging and cleaning the irrigation canals of the El Gezira Agricultural Scheme, which used to be one of the largest irrigation projects in the world.
The ERC explained that the machinery was obtained by the companies without payment and used to sabotage older canals by companies linked to former dictator Omar Al Bashir's regime.
In a statement on Monday, the ERC said that last September it had recovered and seized 312 machines from 27 companies working to dig and clean canals. The companies had obtained the machines from the Sudan Agricultural Bank (a governmental institution) without paying for them, with the approval of the El Gezira Scheme management. The value of the machinery amounted to $55 million.
The committee explained that the machinery contributed to sabotaging the engineering system of older irrigation canals, which caused losses to farmers who were then forced to abandon their lands.
The ERC pointed to Minawi's association with the companies group's most prominent owner, Abdelbagi Ali, a member of the now-dissolved National Congress Party of former dictator Omar Al Bashir who recently joined the SLM led by Minawi.
This is by no means the first time that remnants of the former regime are accused of sabotaging the irrigation scheme of mismanagement, corruption, embezzlement, and looting of the scheme’s resources. In late 2014, Al Bashir described the scheme as “a burden on the country’s budget” and worked to transfer land ownership to the private sector and foreign investors. The Farmers Union was also disbanded by the Al Bashir regime.
The ERC also said that the October 25 military coup caused the suspension of a $2 billion grant from the International Development Association (IDA), of which $650 million was to be allocated to the maintenance of irrigation systems in the El Gezira Scheme. The rest was meant for other major agricultural projects.
In an interview with Al Jazeera Live TV on Sunday, Minawi, currently governor of the Darfur region, and leading member of the split-off Forces for Freedom and Change-National Accord (FFC-NA, aka National Accord Forces), also held the former government of PM Abdallah Hamdok and the former Sovereignty Council responsible for the aggravation of the situation in Sudan after the floods.
"Sudan is paying the price of marginalisation caused by previous governments," he added.
Minawi as well accused the ERC of worsening the situation in El Gezira after suspending ‘relief organisations’.
He further said that the current Sovereignty Council is moving to extend a helping hand to those affected by the floods.
* The full name of the committee is the Committee for Dismantling the June 30 1989 Regime, Removal of Empowerment and Corruption, and Recovering Public Funds. It was established by the government of Abdallah Hamdok at the end of 2019 with the aim to purge Sudan of the remnants of the Al Bashir regime. Empowerment (tamkin) is the term with which the ousted government of Omar Al Bashir supported its affiliates by granting them far-going privileges, including government functions, the setting-up of various companies, and tax exemptions.