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Tensions rise between Sudan army and El Gedaref farmers

August 25 - 2020 EL GEDAREF
Upper Atbara Dam (Photo by Lahmeyer International GmbH, provider of engineering services at the Dams Implementation Unit of the Ministry of Electricity and Water Resources)
Upper Atbara Dam (Photo by Lahmeyer International GmbH, provider of engineering services at the Dams Implementation Unit of the Ministry of Electricity and Water Resources)

Farmers in the area of the Atbara and Setit dams complex in eastern Sudan’s El Gedaref complain about increasing frictions with members of the local military garrison over agricultural land.

A resident of Village 1, created during the construction of the dams complex in 2015, told Radio Dabanga that army officers beat three farmers from the village because of disputes over agricultural land.

“This is just part of recurrent attacks by army troops on villagers tending their farms,” he said.

“Individuals [from the army] are now cultivating lands that were expropriated for the building of the Atbara and Setit dams.”

He urged Suleiman Ali, the newly appointed civilian governor of El Gedaref, “to intervene, stop attacks by army soldiers on the farmers, and review the ownership of the lands in the area.

Ali said that the area’s farmers intend to organise a protest march.

Land issues

Construction of the Rumeila Dam at the Upper Atbara river and the Burdana Dam at the Setit (Seteet) river began in 2011. The generation capacity of the Upper Atbara-Setit Dams Complex would reportedly be 320 megawatts. The project was to create more than ten million acres of new farmland in Kassala and El Gedaref states.

Land on the border of El Gedaref and Kassala became bare after tens of thousands of people living in the area were forced to leave their homes in 2015.

Parts of the expropriated farmlands were leased to Saudi investors in 2016 for a period of 99 years, after the Sudanese parliament approved a bill that allowed Saudis to cultivate more than a million acres of land in eastern Sudan.

In February 2017, the then President Omar Al Bashir inaugurated the first turbine of the dam complex in the El Gedaref-Kassala border area. The people displaced by the project however were complaining of poverty and unemployment, as they had not received any compensation so far.

In February 2015, the largest relocation operation in Sudan caused by the construction of dams commenced. By mid-March, tens of thousands of people living near the site of the Atbara and Setit (or Seteet) Dam Complex were moved.

One of the affected residents complained to Radio Dabanga at the time that the dam complex management began flooding their lands without keeping its commitments towards the population. Compensation promised to herders and shopkeepers in the area was delayed.


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