Port Sudan protests: Authorities tighten grip on thirsty city

Riot police and security forces have tightened their grip on protesters in Port Sudan, whom have staged demonstrations against the ongoing water and power shortage in the city for seven days in a row.

Gathered adults and children in Port Sudan, the state capital of Red Sea state (file photo)

Riot police and security forces have tightened their grip on protesters in Port Sudan, whom have staged demonstrations against the ongoing water and power shortage in the city for seven days in a row.

Speaking to Radio Dabanga, journalist Amin Sinada said that members of the security apparatus arrested activist Esmat Abdo from Hadal market on Sunday. The arrest took place against the backdrop of protests that took place at El Thawra market.

“The security troops entered a number of houses of activists in various districts of the city, causing fear among their families.” Sinada explained that this action came within the framework of security measurements which Port Sudan locality has activated to curb the ongoing protests.

The Sudanese Security Service (NISS) arrested a number of youths in the market of Port Sudan at the scene of a street protest, including Esmat Abdelshafi who is a member of the Independent Students Congress. The arrest was reported by the opposition’s Sudanese Congress Party (SCP).

Sina said that the drinking water shortage has continued. “It's at a dangerous level now and prompted authorities to distribute a limited number of water tanks. These will be handed out for free in the districts that have witnessed the most demonstrations, in an attempt to calm down the residents.”

The journalist added that he does not expect this measure to solve the problem. “It creates a larger problem for residents to obtain a small amount of water, which is not enough for everyone.”

Scramble for water

A woman died on Sunday June 10 when people in Sennar state scrambled for drinking water at the water station in El Mazmum. An electricity pole was pushed over in the crush, and fell into the water, electrocuting the woman to death.

In Port Sudan intensity of demonstrations has decreased in the past days, yet the tension in the city remained. Amin Sinada: “Activists have started to mobilise people and stage protests in the city centre or in front of homes of officials.”

The deterioration of the drinking water shortage is most likely caused by a lack of rain this year and silt residue reducing the capacity of the water sources on which the city depends, the Arbaat reservoir. In addition to power cuts which have had a significant impact on pumps that pump up water into basins.

“The presence of farms and private institutions just outside of the city has also affected the Port Sudan’s share of water. Some farms and institutions take the largest share of water before the supply reaches Port Sudan,” according to Sinada.

Ministry intervenes

The Sudanese Ministry of Water Resources has pledged to send water pumps to Port Sudan on board an airplane in an attempt to contain the popular protests over the water scarcity.

On Monday the ministry made its announcement. Five additional pumps would be sent along the airplane within 24 hours. Seven pumps had already been sent to the city. Meanwhile the ministry started to extend power lines for water stations.

A press statement read that the federal ministry joined efforts with the state government which has resulted in the rehabilitation of 26 wells. These are working efficiently so far and contribute to the provision of 28,000 cubic metres, according to the statement.

The ministry will allocate a special power line will for the Arbaat water reservoir, according to the Red Sea state government, and it will provide backup generators in the event of any sudden electricity outage.

Earlier this week, a journalist in the area reported that the power supply has been steadily flowing to Port Sudan, since the outbreak of protests. People in southern districts of Port Sudan staged demonstrations on Wednesday, the day after the first protest in Korea district. Police used tear gas against the crowd in Korea.