Protesting farmers barricade Sudan's highways, halting exports to Egypt
Issued on: Modified:
Defying security crackdowns, Sudanese people have continued to rally in the country's cities in protest against the military coup carried out on October 25, 2021 by General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan. More recently, a new type of resistance has emerged in the rural Northern state: since early January, protesters have prevented lorries from transporting goods to neighbouring Egypt.
It all began on January 9, when hundreds of peasants in Ed Debba blocked the highway leading to the Egyptian border to protest against hikes in the cost of electricity, which recently rose from 9 to 22 Sudanese pounds per kilowatt/hour. According to the Ministry of Energy, this increase in prices stems from a series of austerity measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help relieve the country's debt burden, estimated to be more than 50 billion dollars (or 43 billion euro).
Since then, protesters have set up barricades along highways in the north of the country, blocking hundreds of lorries carrying goods to Egypt.
'We’ve intercepted about forty Egyptian lorries'
Yasser is a farmer. He’s been taking part in protests in the region of Atbara, located 250 kilometres north of Khartoum.
At first, we just wanted to force the authorities to scrap the electricity price hike. But now we're demanding more.
The lorries transport raw food items to Egypt. Egypt buys them here at a low price and then processes them and exports them to Europe in exchange for foreign currency, among other things.
These lorries carry livestock, sesame, peanuts, sorrel, garlic, etc. We want the authorities to build factories in Sudan so that the products can be processed here. That would create jobs and foster development in regions like ours. And it would allow us to export our products at better prices.
Smuggling is also a major issue. Many lorries transport animals and agricultural products with no documents showing where they were purchased. When we intercept them, we hand them over to the authorities.
For us, it doesn’t matter who is leading the country. Whether it is soldiers or civilians, successive governments have done nothing to support us. We just want development in our region. We aren’t really part of the protests calling for an end to military rule.
>> Read more on The Observers: Sudanese security forces 'hunt down' injured protesters in hospital
However, the grievances of some protesters, which were, initially, economic, have become increasingly political. They are calling for the military government to step down and for the transitional government, unseated during the coup, to return to power.
In recent weeks, resistance committees – modeled after the committees that organise weekly protests in the capital, Khartoum – have been formed in the north.
'There can’t be an improvement in socio-economic conditions without democracy'
Ibrahim is one of these activists. He comes from the town of al-Berguig, located more than 500 kilometres north of Khartoum.
The fight to stop the rising cost of electricity is no longer the central issue for us. First, we need to return to the political transition towards democracy and the establishment of democratic institutions. There can’t be an improvement in socio-economic conditions without democracy.
Today [Wednesday, February 2], I helped erect a barricade in Hafir [Editor’s note: a town located in the al-Berguig region]. Around 200 lorries carrying Egyptian products were stalled. The lorries were carrying livestock, frozen meat and cotton, among other things.
When the lorries are stopped, we check with the drivers to see if their documents are in order, if they have receipts. That’s one way to combat smuggling, because there is a lot of camel smuggling between Sudan and Egypt.
However, we don’t search the goods because we can’t step in for the police.
In order to avoid the barricades along the highway in Northern state, lorries carrying goods bound for Egypt have been traveling through the Port Sudan region, located in the northeastern part of the country. But protesters there have also started to block this highway, as shown in videos posted on social media.
📍 The Egyptian trucks tried to circumvent Shiryan Al Shamal road, which was blocked by the northern state protesters, but the Port Sudan's youths managed to stop them at Transit bridge.#SudanCoup #ترس_الشمال pic.twitter.com/9506jigrbP— Mohamed Mustafa (@Moh_Gamea) January 31, 2022
According to Sudanese economist Mohamed al-Nayer, quoted by al-Araby, these barricades will have an effect on the economies of both countries. Sudanese exports to Egypt represent 10% of the country’s total exports. He said that the volume of exchange between the two countries surpassed one billion dollars in 2021.