Nubians demonstrate against northern Sudan dams

On Saturday, Nubians took to the streets in various northern Sudanese towns in protest against the construction of the Dal and Kajbar dams at the second and third cataract of the Nile.

On Saturday, Nubians took to the streets in various northern Sudanese towns in protest against the construction of the Dal and Kajbar dams at the second and third cataract of the Nile.

Nubians from several chiefdoms expressed their rejection of the dams by pointing to the Egyptian Aswan High Dam built in 1964 during the reign of the Sudanese President Ibrahim Abboud. Tens of thousands of people were displaced, as many villages disappeared into the Nasser Lake behind the dam.

The angry demonstrators carried banners denouncing the Dal and Kajbar dams and chanting anti-displacement slogans. The protesters vowed never to leave or sell the land of their ancestors, and repeatedly chanted: “Abboud’s tragedy will never be repeated again”.

Sudan's opposition parties have criticised the construction of the power projects, and demand “social, economic, and feasibility studies about the impact of the dams on the inhabitants of the areas.

Saudi funding

The protests against the Dal, Kajbar, and El Shereik dams in northern Sudan intensified after Saudi Arabia agreed to finance the construction early November last year. Many opposition forces voiced their support to the Nubian campaign against the dams.

The Association of Nubians living in northern Sudan warned that the construction of the two dams will wipe out more than 7,000 years of Nubian civilisation.

In a public debate at the University of Khartoum on 11 November, members of The Youth Committee Against the Kajbar and Dal Dams stressed that they are ready to give their lives for the survival of the Nubian heritage. “The dams will only be constructed on our dead bodies.”

They lauded the opposition Sudanese Congress Party and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) for standing by them in their rejection of the dams.

Major dams projects

According to International Rivers, the Sudanese government plans to transform the Nile, “the only stretch of fertile land north of Khartoum”, into a string of water reservoirs.

The Merowe Dam was completed in 2009. The project doubled Sudan’s electricity generation, but displaced more than 50,000 people from the Nile Valley to arid desert locations. Protests were violently suppressed.

The planned Kajbar Dam on the Nile’s third cataract will create a reservoir of 110 square km, and generate 360 megawatts of electricity. According to International Rivers, the project will displace more than 10,000 people and submerge an estimated 500 archaeological sites. The Dal Dam on the second cataract would have a capacity of 340-450 megawatts, and would displace at least 5,000 people.

The Sudanese government has responded harshly to protests against the Kajbar and Dal Dams. In 2007, security forces killed four, and injured at least 20 people protesting peacefully against the construction of the Kajbar Dam. Nubians have warned that the projects could lead to a conflict similar to that of Darfur.