The National Beja Congress may take up arms again if the provisions laid out in the 2006 Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA) are not implemented soon.
Sheiba Dirar, chairman of the Beja Congress, blames the ruling National Congress Party(NCP) for ignoring the stipulations laid out in the agreement, signed by the Sudanese government and the Eastern Front, an alliance of opposition forces, in October 2006.
“There has not been any progress in the implementation of the three main ESPA files,” he told Radio Dabanga.
“Instead of profiting from projects of the Eastern Sudan Reconstruction and Development Fund (ESRDF), getting our share of national government posts, and seeing our former combatants rehabilitated through the implementation of the security arrangements, as all stipulated in the ESPA, eastern Sudan has become more marginalised than ever before.”
Last year, Port Sudan witnessed several protests by ex-combatants of the EA, calling for the full implementation of the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA). A number of them, attempted to publicly commit suicide, because of the dire conditions they are living in.
Dirar warned that the situation in eastern Sudan has deteriorated to the extent that the Beja fighters may take up arms again. “This time, the armed resistance will not be launched from Eritrea or Ethiopia, but from the mountains of eastern Sudan,” he stressed.
He added that revealed that the NCP is aware of the developments. “We have raised the delay in the implementation several times, however to no avail.”
The ESPA was signed by the Sudanese government and the Eastern Front rebel alliance, consisting of the Beja Congress, the Rashaida Free Lions, and the Democratic Party of Eastern Sudan in the Eritrean capital of Asmara on 14 October 2006.
In the agreement, the social, political, and economic marginalisation of the people of eastern Sudan was given as the core reason for the armed conflict in the region. It covered political issues, economic, social, and cultural issues, and security arrangements for the Eastern Front's ex-combatants.
It also provided for a national conference to address the administrative structure in Sudan, with the aim of identifying the inequalities in the employment of the eastern Sudanese in civil service and other structures.
The ESPA further required resources to be allocated to development through the ESRDF.
According to a prominent Beja member and professor at the Faculty of Administrative Sciences of the University of Khartoum, the Fund, since it assumed its duties in 2007, has implemented only 20 percent of the projects in the region, while it has received millions of dollars from donors.
The Geneva-based Small Arms Survey (SAS) said in its report, Development Deferred: Eastern Sudan after the ESPA, issued in May that the ESRDF appears to have been systematically underfunded, and much of the funding it received has been allocated to national dam-building projects.
SAS warned for “voices in the Beja Congress calling once more for self-determination and, now, the secession of eastern Sudan.”
“Although an outbreak of armed conflict in the region is relatively unlikely, given the good relations between Asmara and Khartoum, small arms are widespread, and some of the forces in the region are likely to join armed resistance in other parts of Sudan,” the report read.