The main sea ports of Sudan were blockaded by protesters opposed to part of a peace deal with the rebels, targeting branches of the ravaged economy’s main conduits for trade.
Demonstrations forced facilities to close at Port Sudan and Suakin, both on the Red Sea, according to the head of a local labor committee that supports the action, Abdou Alshirbini. Protesters plan October 5 to extend their blockade to Bashair, the port from which landlocked South Sudan’s oil is shipped to world markets, he said by phone.
Authorities weren’t immediately available to comment on the committee’s claims. Sudan Seaports Corp. spokesman Nabil Mahmoud said on October 4 that facilities at Port Sudan and Suakin had been partially closed, without giving details.
Any long-term pause would mean more problems for Sudan’s troubled economy. Inflation has hit 167% and GDP is likely to contract some 7.2% this year as the North African country strives to overcome shortages of key commodities and attract foreign aid and investment in the aftermath of dictator Omar al-Bashir’s 2019 ouster.
Groups from other regions also signed, but some in the east said the two factions that participated in the “eastern track” of the peace process do not represent political forces on the ground, Reuters news agency reported.
The deal is aimed at ending decades of conflict in Sudan and uniting the country behind a political transition following the ouster of former leader Omar Bashir in April 2019.
However, the two most active and powerful groups in the west and the south did not sign, and analysts said that during negotiations, local communities were not widely consulted by military and civilian authorities now sharing power.
The rebel groups – the Darfur-based Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) faction led by Abdelwahid Mohamed al-Nour and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu did not sign, reflecting the challenges still facing the peace process.
Workers at the southern port, Sudan’s main sea terminal for containers, and at Suakin port to the south, were on strike over the peace deal, said Aboud El-Sherbiny, head of the Port Sudan Workers Union.
“We demand the cancellation of the ‘eastern track’ and the agreement that was signed yesterday in Juba because this track expresses an external agenda,” he said.