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Eastern Sudan protests: Beja nazirs reopen oil pipelines amidst government negotiations

September 27 - 2021 PORT SUDAN / KASSALA
Large crowds gathered in Shamboub, rural Kassala, to protest against the Beja road closures (social media)
Large crowds gathered in Shamboub, rural Kassala, to protest against the Beja road closures (social media)

The High Council of Beja Nazirs* and Independent Chieftains announced the reopening of the oil export and import line and of Bashayer Port 2 yesterday while vowing to continue the closures of the roads and other ports in Red Sea state. The council met with a government delegation in Port Sudan yesterday.

A high-level government delegation from Khartoum, chaired by Sovereignty Council member Lt Gen Shamseldin Kabashi, cut short its visit to Port Sudan after the two parties agreed to continue negotiation meetings next week.

The government delegation included the Ministers of Interior Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Energy and Transport.

In a press statement following yesterday’s meeting between the Beja council, the government delegation, and the Red Sea state Security Committee in Port Sudan, Beja council spokesperson Sayed Ali Abu Amna said that they received a proposal from the government delegation and that this offer will be studied by the Eastern Sudan Coordination.

During the meeting, the government delegation presented a number of proposals to solve the issues in eastern Sudan and re-open the ports and roads blocked by the Beja protestors in the past two weeks.

The delegation suggested holding “an inclusive conference for the people of eastern Sudan” of which the outcomes would be binding for both the government and the people of eastern Sudan.

Kabashi said that the traffic and ports infrastructure should be secure and is not to be attacked by any party until a final agreement is reached on the outstanding issues.

Nazir Mohamed El Amin Tirik confirmed the Beja council’s initial acceptance of the proposals presented by the government delegation but requested one week to consult with the allied coordination committees that did not attend the meeting.

Government delegation and protests

The high-level government delegation would visit Red Sea state to discuss the controversial issues of the Eastern Sudan Track on September 19, but the visit was postponed because of the Beja protest actions in the region. Last week, it was decided to add the Ministers of Interior Affairs and Defence to the delegation.

Following blockages of the main roads between Port Sudan and the rest of the country and the closure of several ports, the Beja nazirs ordered the blocking of the railway line last Tuesday, on the sixth day of the protest.

Abdallah Obshar, the Beja council's rapporteur, told Radio Dabanga that they closed the oil pipelines on Thursday as a prelude to full-scale civil disobedience to put pressure on the government to meet their demands.

He said that the nazirs had resorted to raising their demands to a full overthrow of the government because of its delay in responding to their previous demands.

Last week, Obshar told Radio Dabanga that their most prominent demands are to cancel the Eastern Sudan Track which is part of the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement and adopt a new negotiating platform for eastern Sudan. The high council also demanded the formation of a government of technocrats: “We demand a competent government as the current partisan government is too slow in responding to our demands,” Obshar said.

Counter-protest

On Saturday, thousands of people gathered in Shamboub in ​​Kassala in response to the calls of the High Native Administration Council to declare their support for the Eastern Sudan Track in the Juba Peace Agreement and their rejection of the Beja’s road- and port blocks.

Beja nazirs have opposed the Eastern Sudan Track since it was agreed upon by the Sudanese government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance during the peace negotiations in the South Sudan capital of Juba in February 2020**. In the Peace, Development and Justice Conference, the Beja council organised in Sinkat, Red Sea state in September last year, they demanded the right to self-determination for eastern Sudan if the government would not listen to their demands and cancel the eastern Sudan peace protocol. Recently, a new wave of protests against the Eastern Sudan Track has swept through the region.

The El Butana National Movement, the High Council for Native Administration in eastern Sudan, Resistance Committees in Red Sea state, Kassala, and El Gedaref, and the El Gedaref Salvation Initiative all denounced the blocking of the highways and accused the Beja protesters of “closing the East”. Leaders of the El Butana National Movement said that ‘affiliates of the former regime’ are behind the road closures.

They all called for accelerating the implementation of the Eastern Sudan Track and highlighted the obligation of the regular forces to play their role in protecting public assets from being blocked, including roads and ports.

El Burhan helps eastern Sudanese protesters in Port Sudan to block the road to Khartoum.
'The military create chaos as a prelude to a coup' it reads.
- Cartoon by Omar Dafallah (RD)

 

Reaction of El Burhan

Last week, Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereignty Council and Commander of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan said that what is happening in eastern Sudan is a political matter related to power and wealth sharing in the region. He called for consensus between the political and military forces in the country.

El Burhan denied the army's support for the protestors in eastern Sudan and stressed that the issue cannot be resolved with the use of force. He referred to the disastrous consequences of violent conflicts in what is now South Sudan, and in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile state.


* A nazir is a state-appointed administrative chief of a tribe or clan, according to the Native Administration system set up by the British in Sudan.

** The Eastern Sudan Track was negotiated and signed by Ababda tribe leader Osama Saeed, Chairman of the Beja Congress in Opposition, and Beni Amer leader Khalid Shaweesh, Head of the Popular Front for Justice. The High Council of Beja Nazirs and Independent Chieftains was not involved in the talks. So far, they have not clarified in particular what they are opposed to. They demand the entire Eastern Sudan Track to be cancelled and call for an inclusive eastern Sudan conference to decide on the future of the region.


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