Red Sea road protest causes bread shortage in Sudan

Blockade of Khartoum-Port Sudan highway deepens friction between military and politicians

Sudanese buy bread from a bakery in the capital Khartoum on October 11, 2021, as the country is suffering from shortages of wheat and other essential commodities due to the closure of Port Sudan amid ongoing protests. AFP
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Protests on the main road leading to Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, from Port Sudan have caused an acute shortage of bread, leading shoppers to queue for hours outside bakeries.

The blockade, which began more than three weeks ago, is also causing a shortage of fuel oil used for power generation, jeopardising the country’s fragile electricity supply.

State-subsidised bread selling at five Sudanese pounds a loaf has been in shorter supply than the commercial variety sold at up to 35 pounds apiece. Khartoum residents say a five-hour wait outside bakeries for the cheaper type has become the norm.

“The lines for the subsidised bread are incredibly long,” said Omar Halafawy, 45, a government employee from Khartoum. “I am just buying the commercial bread at 30 pounds apiece and I only have to wait in line for an hour or so.”

Mayadah Jaafar, a private-sector employee from the district of Khartoum III, cannot afford the luxury of the more expensive bread.

“My wait in the line is usually morning until lunchtime. And sometimes, the bakery runs out of flour and I go home and then go back later and start all over again," she said.

The shortage of wheat-flour has forced many bakeries in the Sudanese capital to close, said bakery owner Yahya Moussa.

“Sometimes we are closed for two days until we get more flour,” he said.

The protesters in eastern Sudan say they want the transitional government to annul and renegotiate a peace deal for their region signed a year ago. They say that those who signed on behalf of their area, which includes Port Sudan, have no following to speak of.

They are also protesting against what they say are the poor economic conditions of their region.

The blockade of the Khartoum-Port Sudan highway has caused friction between the military and civilian politicians who have shared power since the removal of long-time dictator Omar Al Bashir in 2019.

The politicians say the military aims to embarrass the civilian-led Cabinet by not taking action to lift the blockade. The military denies the charge, saying it is the job of the police to deal with the demonstration.

Simmering tension between the civilian and military factions of the transitional administration went public last month after a failed coup attempt on September 21, with each side blaming the other for the country’s woes in a bitter war of words.

The quarrel has prompted many world powers and the UN to state their support for Sudan’s transition to democratic rule. On Friday, the US, Britain and Norway called for talks with the eastern-region protesters to end the road blockade.

Updated: October 13, 2021, 5:40 PM