Eastern Sudan: Beja working on tribal reconciliation, militarisation continues

El Burhan meets a delegation from the Beja Initiative for Peaceful Coexistence in Port Sudan, May 15 (Photo: Sovereignty Council via its Facebook page)

Beja leaders in eastern Sudan met with Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan this week to discuss their initiative to reach peace between the various communities in the region. Battles between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support forces (RSF) in western El Gedaref subsided in the past few days. The training of new recruits to fight alongside the SAF continues in military camps in Eritrea.

Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, SAF commander and president of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, met with a delegation of the Beja Initiative for Peaceful Coexistence in Port Sudan on Wednesday.

The initiative was launched in October last year, bringing together leaders of the Beja-Hadendawa and Beni Amer tribal groups after a rupture that lasted for years following violent clashes in particular in Kassala, which, together with Red Sea state and El Gedaref, forms eastern Sudan.

The initiative aims to promote societal peace, stop hate speech, and set up a fund to compensate the victims of the repeated clashes between these communities in the past years. The bloody tribal conflicts led to the death and injury of hundreds and caused material losses estimated at billions of pounds.

According to the Sovereignty Council’s press bureau, El Burhan instructed the three eastern Sudanese state institutions to adopt the Beja Initiative and support the process in coordination with the Sudanese Peace Commission and the Ministry of Federal Governance. He called for the expansion of the initiative to include all communities in the region.

El Burhan directed the damage assessment committees in the three states to start their work and calculate the total costs of the losses. The Sudanese High Committee for Compensation, headed by the Minister of Finance, has to be activated and prepare for the first compensation payments.

El Burhan greets Nazir Sayed Tirik, head of the Beja Initiative for Peaceful Coexistence, Port Sudan, May 15 (Photo: Sovereignty Council)


Last week, the Beja Initiative for Peaceful Coexistence organised two workshops in Arkawit in Red Sea state.

“One workshop discussed the rehabilitation and compensation for those affected by the violence in the region, and the other one tackled governance and administration in eastern Sudan,” Hamad Karrar, the initiative’s spokesperson, told Radio Dabanga. “This workshop recommended stabilising federal rule in eastern Sudan, similar to the Blue Nile and Darfur regions.”

As for the workshop on rehabilitation and compensation, the attending Beja nazirs* called for the establishment of a fund to redress material damages, to be financed by the Sudanese government, the private sector, and businessmen from all states, especially eastern Sudan.

Judicial committees and chambers of commerce will decide on the final claims, Karrar explained and added that “well-known businessman Ashraf El Cardinal** already agreed to pay a part of the compensation to those affected”.

Other recommendations include the development of programmes to sustain peaceful coexistence, involve young people in community peace projects, develop regulations for rehabilitation and compensation, a presidential decree to assign an official to follow up on the initiative, and activate the High Committee for Compensation that should include Beja nazirs.

El Burhan urged the initiative’s general conference be expedited, Karrar said. “The initiative’s general conference will be held after we have held conferences in each of the three eastern Sudanese states.”

Workshop on rehabilitation and compensation organised by the Beja Initiative for Peaceful Coexistence in May (Photo: Beja Initiative)


The High Council of Beja Nazirs and Independent Chieftains-Adarob wing rejected the Beja Initiative in a statement yesterday, calling the initiative “an attempt to ignite the fire of strife in the East under the supervision of certain security and political leaders”.

According to the statement, the initiative “is working at the behest of some Islamists in the security services and directing the Peace Commission to pass the deal”. It can be considered as “an attempt to block the way for the eastern Sudanese to obtain their historical rights and to mislead them to achieve political gains”.

Sudanese activists on social media called on the government “to form an impartial and transparent judicial investigation committee to investigate the tribal violence in the past years, to formally indict those responsible for creating strife and hate speech, and to form special courts to look into lists of those accused in criminal cases”. They also called for the formation of community committees that should decide on compensation for the victims.


The calls for peaceful coexistence coincide with an increase in the pace of militarisation of civilians in the region. Several armed groups continue to train their forces in camps in Eritrea, including the Eastern Sudan Liberation Forces under the leadership of Ibrahim Abdallah (better known as Ibrahim Dunya), the United Popular Front for Liberation and Justice led by El Amin Daoud, the Beja National Congress headed by Mousa Mohamed Ahmed, and forces supervised by religious leader Suleiman Beitai, head of the Hamashkoreib Quran schools in Kassala. All these groups post calls on social media to recruit new forces to enrol in training camps.

Earlier this week, the Eastern Sudan Liberation Forces held its first conference and posted the recommendations on its Facebook page. The group will “not allow destabilisation to happen in eastern Sudan, which represents a refuge for all people affected by the scourge of war”. It will “continue the struggle by all means to free the people of eastern Sudan from political, social and cultural marginalisation and persecution”.

Forces of allied eastern Sudanese groups headed by Sheba Dirar have arrived to “the areas of operations in El Fao” in western El Gedaref, bordering El Gezira that came under control of the RSF in December last year.

Military sources reported that El Fao has been witnessing “a cautious calm” for days now. The area, under control of the SAF has recently been the scene of skirmishes between army forces, supported by armed groups.

The sources added that drones continue to target various areas in El Gedaref.

nazir is a state-appointed administrative chief of a tribe, according to the native administration system in Sudan. It was instituted by British colonial authorities seeking a pragmatic system of governance that allowed for effective control with limited oversight by the state. The three-tiered system of and paramount chiefs (nazirs), sheikhs, and omdas, was built on customary governance that had previously helped resolve local disputes and manage access to natural resources. According to the Darfur Bar Association (DBA), native administration leaders during the 30-year rule of dictator Omar Al Bashir did not represent the real community leaders.

** El Cardinal was sanctioned by the US Department of State in 2019, and his company Nabah Ltd in 2020 for corruption and bribery involving senior South Sudanese government officials. People living in Agig and Tokar in southeastern part of Red Sea state previously rejected investments of El Cardinal Companies along the Red Sea coast, demanding to be consulted first and be allocated development projects in the areas.