Sudan port blockade lifted for one month, says tribal leader

Roads linking country's main seaport to rest of the country have been reopened

Brick barricades set up by Sudanese anti-coup protesters block part of Street 60 in Khartoum East on October 31. AFP
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Tribal protesters have lifted a blockade on Sudan’s main seaport and oil pipelines, and reopened roads linking the port to the rest of the country.

A tribal leader said a deal had been struck with the military to remove the barricades for one month.

The development comes a week after the military dissolved the transitional government in a widely condemned takeover in Sudan that threatens to further derail the country’s already fragile transition after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar Al Bashir in April 2019.

Pro-democracy activists have accused the military of engineering the port blockade and another pro-military protest outside the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum to deflect from their military takeover of the country.

Kamal Sayed, secretary general of the Baja tribal council, told the Associated Press that tribal leaders have reached a deal with the military to lift the blockade of the Red Sea port and oil pipelines, and reopen roads in the eastern city of Port Sudan for one month to allow the formation of a new government.

The council represents six nomadic tribes that live in north-eastern Sudan where the port is located. They have held street protests in Port Sudan for the past two months, setting up barricades and staying out on the streets to block the port, a lifeline for the country, oil pipelines and major roads.

The tribal protesters demand the military fully dissolve the transitional government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, whom the army put under house arrest following the coup. They also demand a peace deal struck last year with a rebel alliance in the east be renegotiated.

The generals have denied accusations of engineering the port blockade, saying the protesters’ demands in Port Sudan and in Khartoum are legitimate and should be negotiated politically.

In the weeks before the coup, Hamdok’s government and the UN had tried unsuccessfully to negotiate the reopening of the port and key roads.

Mr Sayed said the makeshift barricades at the port’s terminals and the main motorway linking Port Sudan to Khartoum were removed on Monday morning. He said the barricades would be reinstated if their demands are not met.

The blockade has caused food and fuel shortages across Sudan, with the government saying last month the country was running out of essential goods, including medicines, food and wheat.

Meanwhile in Khartoum, a semblance of normality has returned as several roads and bridges have reopened after week-long tensions and protests against the military’s takeover.

The US Embassy in Khartoum said movement in and around the capital has improved since Saturday, but that military checkpoints remain in place in several areas. Protesters have continued to set up makeshift barricades in some neighbourhoods.

Simon Manley, Britain’s ambassador to the UN mission in Geneva, said some 50 countries have requested an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council on the Sudanese military’s takeover. “The actions of the Sudanese military are a betrayal of the revolution, the transition & the hopes of the Sudanese people,” Mr Manley tweeted.

Also on Monday, security forces rearrested the country’s former foreign minister, Ibrahim Ghandour, hours after his release from a Khartoum prison, local media reported.

Ghandour was first arrested in June last year as part of efforts to dismantle Al Bashir’s Islamist regime. He was released late Sunday along with other former officials and Al Bashir allies, according to the Sudan Tribune website.

No reason was given as to why Ghandour was rearrested. He had headed Al Bashir’s now-dissolved political party and his release — which was also not explained — had stirred up controversy and anger among the pro-democracy movement.

Sudan’s military rulers also dismissed the country’s acting chief prosecutor, Mubarak Mahmoud Othman, late on Sunday, according to the state-run Sudan TV. The report offered no details.

Updated: November 02, 2021, 5:47 AM