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Former Beja Congress fighters stage protest in Port Sudan

March 17 - 2016 PORT SUDAN
Eastern Front troops, 2007 (Christopher Milner/Pulitzer Center)
Eastern Front troops, 2007 (Christopher Milner/Pulitzer Center)

Dozens of Beja Congress former combatants staged a sit-in in front of the Red Sea State Ministry of Finance in Port Sudan on Wednesday, in protest against the authorities’ failure to offer the basic requirements for small-enterprise projects.

Ex-Beja Congress fighter Haroun Idris told Radio Dabanga from the sit-in site at the Ministry that the Red Sea State government agreed in September last year to provide small-scale production projects to 380 demobilised combatants. The projects would be handed to the former fighters on 16 March.

He said that the people entitled to the projects went to the Ministry on Wednesday morning, “where the Finance Minister refused to listen to us”.

He added that “200 other demobilised combatants have been offered jobs that do not fit their abilities.

“The entire procedure is a violation of the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA),” he said. “We will continue our sit-in until we have obtained our rights, enshrined in the agreement’s security arrangements file.

“Hunger and diseases have already caused the death of many demobilised fighters and their family members in eastern Sudan.”  

Delay

The ESPA was signed by the Sudanese government and the Eastern Front rebel alliance, consisting of the Beja, 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 conflict in the region. Apart from political, economic, social, and cultural issues, it covered the security arrangements for Eastern Front ex-combatants.

The peace accord 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 Eastern Front ex-combatants however, are still awaiting the final implementation of the security arrangements.

Stagnant’

Omar Hashim El Khalifa, the chairman of the Eastern Front Ex-Combatants Committee told Radio Dabanga in November last year that the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) process was “still stagnant”.

He pointed to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Red Sea State governor and the ESPA signatories on 20 September last year, after the ex-combatants threatened to take up their arms against Khartoum again. The MoU obligated the state government to “regularise, demobilise, and compensate psychological and physical harm, retro-actively compensate and allocate positions in federal and state institutions, along with allocating sustainable projects for the demobilised fighters”.

Read Sea State witnessed various protests by ex-fighters of the Eastern Front in 2014. Some of them even attempted to public suicide.

El Khalifa said at the time that the dire living conditions, “experienced by all ex-combatants”, prompted the suicide attempt. “Hunger and diseases have already caused the death of many demobilised fighters and their family members in eastern Sudan.”  


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