Protests against privatisation in Sudan spark detentions

Protestors fix a banner to the gates of the closed Bashayer Port for oil export on October 5, 2020 (File photo: Social media)


Authorities in Red Sea state detained two leaders of the Ports Workers Union following protests against the privatisation of terminals of the Green Harbour on the east side of Port Sudan. Oil workers were detained inside their residential compound following a protest at Sufyan oil field in Abu Karinka, East Darfur. 

Port workers said that the authorities “lured” trade union leaders Osman Taher and Siddig Abu Samra and detained them in Port Sudan on Tuesday. 

On Monday and Tuesday, seaports workers staged protests to reject the privatisation of the Green Harbour terminals, during the visit of the ministers of Finance and Transportation to Red Sea state. There was a significant security presence at the Coral Hotel in Port Sudan where the ministerial delegation participated in a blue economy workshop. 

Abboud Sherbini, a ports trade union leader, told Radio Dabanga that the protests aimed to send a message about the workers’ rejection of privatising the Green Harbour terminals to the acting ministers of Finance and Transportation. 

He said that the new general manager of the Green Harbour, Captain Mohamed Mukhtar, agrees with the demands of the workers.  

Trade union leader Osman Taher, in a speech to the protest vigil in front of the Coral Hotel on Monday, demanded the dismissal of the Minister of Transportation.  

He said that he holds him accountable for the plans to sell the ports. The workers “refuse any kind of deal during the current constitutional vacuum and in the absence of a government.” He threatened to escalate the protests if the Green Harbour terminals are privatised. 

Workers at the Southern Port in Port Sudan went on strike against the appointment of a new executive director for the southern port by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure on December 10, 2020. 

The workers in Port Sudan have a long history of resisting privatisation in the port, fearing that it will steer money and power away from workers.  

As previously reported by Radio Dabanga, acting Foreign Minister Ali El Sadig says an agreement designed to enable banks to perform their role in the development of Sudan’s economy, has been negotiated between Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and the private sectors. He said that the Sudanese and Emirati delegations “agreed to establish large strategic economic partnerships in roads, ports, railway, military cooperation, and exchange of experiences”. 

Oil field closure 

On Sunday, protesters closed the Sufyan oil field in Abu Karinka to call for improved development and employment by the companies operating in the area. 

After communication with the petrol energy company management, the Oil Workers Association denounced the proposed security and evacuation plan for the staff. “It made the workers at the site suffer critical and disturbing living and security conditions.” 

The Association holds the company and the Ministry of Energy and Oil responsible for the safety of the workers. 

One day of closure is estimated to cause losses of 4,000 barrels of light crude oil production, the Oil Workers Association said in a statement on Monday. 

Oil workers were detained inside their residential compound and the electricity generators were cut off during the protest. 

Late October, the Oil Workers Association reported that protesters closed the El Neem, Dafra, and Balila oil fields in West Kordofan. The pipeline connecting the Heglig-Khartoum Refinery and Port Sudan was also blocked. The statement accused the acting Minister of Energy and Oil, Mohamed Abdalla, and “the opportunists around him” of ignoring reports about the deteriorating security situation in the El Neem, Balila and Dafra oil fields.