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Eastern Sudan farmers injured in dispute with army over land

July 17 - 2020 EL FASHAGA
Setit and Atbara rivers in eastern Sudan (OCHA map of El Gedaref state)
Setit and Atbara rivers in eastern Sudan (OCHA map of El Gedaref state)

Five farmers were wounded in a conflict with Sudanese army soldiers over land in El Fashaga in eastern Sudan’s El Gedaref on Wednesday. The El Gedaref Rescue Initiative demands retribution for the people killed in protests last year.

The land on the border of El Gedaref and Kassala became bare in 2016 after the people living in the area were relocated because of the construction of the Upper Atbara-Setit (or Seteet) Dam Complex.

The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) 117th Battalion used the land near the newly created Medina One housing complex for fire-line shooting, a farmer told Radio Dabanga from El Fashaga.

“Yet, the soldiers began cultivating our lands with tractors during the agricultural season in mid-2018. This happened again during the rainy season of 2019,” he said.

“When they were preparing the land this time, a group of farmers attempted to stop them. In the ensuing fight, one of the farmers was shot in the hand. Four others were beaten with batons and rifle butts.”

Both the farmers and the commander of the 117th Battalion lodged a complaint at the police station of Medina One. The wounded farmers were taken to the hospital of Shuwak.

Construction of the Rumeila Dam at the Upper Atbara river and the Burdana Dam at the Setit (Seteet) river began in 2011. The generation capacity of the Upper Atbara-Setit Dams Complex would reportedly be 320 megawatts. The project was to create more than ten million acres of new farmland in Kassala and El Gedaref states.

Land on the border of El Gedaref and Kassala became bare after tens of thousands of people living in the area were forced to leave their homes in 2015.

Parts of the confiscated farmlands were leased to Saudi investors in 2016 for a period of 99 years, after the Sudanese parliament approved a bill that allowed Saudi to cultivate more than a million acres of land in eastern Sudan.

In February 2017, the then President Omar Al Bashir inaugurated the first turbine of the dam complex in the El Gedaref-Kassala border area. The people displaced by the project however were complaining of poverty and unemployment, as they had not received any compensation so far.

Protest vigil

On Thursday, El Gedaref Rescue Initiative staged a vigil in front of the Public Prosecution office in the state capital, demanding retribution for the 12 protesters killed in El Gedaref during the December Revolution, the displaced people recently killed in North Darfur’s Fata Borno, and “other martyrs” in Sudan.

The demonstrators held banners calling for justice, and the trial of officials “who ordered the shooting and those who implemented the orders”.

Hussein Taha, leading member of the Initiative, told Radio Dabanga that “those who responsible for the shooting on peaceful protestors in the beginning of the Revolution 20 months ago have not yet been punished.

“At least 12 demonstrators were killed, and more than 100 others were injured,” he said.

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