Workshop: The current crisis in East Sudan

East Sudan holds the key to open the floodgates for progress in the region

Within our Sudan project in the Centre for Arab Progress and the workshops and seminars we are holding with the various stakeholders of the Sudanese scene and influential actors, the Centre recently held a workshop with a number of researchers to discuss the situation in East Sudan.

To quote the prominent intellectual Haj Waraq, the peoples revolution in Sudan will not be able to achieve its aims of peace and social justice unless the complex situation in the East is appropriately solved.

Following the chain of violence that occurred in Port Sudan, Kassala, the Centre invited a number of researchers on the 12th of September 2020 to discuss the plight in East Sudan in order to comprehend the political and social matters and the factors that impact East Sudan.

The keynote speakers of the workshop were;

• Mohamad Jameel – journalist and researcher
• Mubarak Ardol – Politician and researcher
• Dr Abdulnasir Alfakai – Lecturer in African international university in Khartoum
• Ibrahim Idrees – Director of the Adal publisher for studies and culture
• Abdulrahman Harfa – Politician in the United front of People party

The researchers presented papers and engaged in discussions which enriched the comments made by the participants of the workshop.

The researchers raised a number of vital issues which deduce that the Eastern region has suffered from the permanent triangle of poverty, ignorance and diseases. The respective papers highlighted the following;

The region holds geopolitical importance because it borders countries that were suffering from civil war and longstanding chaos and instability. This produces a continuous cycle of refugees and the displacement of people, and this impacts Sudan because of the common cultural and ethnic link between East Sudan and Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The increased migration adds to the dilemmas of the identity which are still prevalent and pose a challenge today, thus complicating the ethnic diversity and tribal conflicts.

The main port of Sudan has become an attractive pull factor for migrant laborers from East, West and Central Sudan.

The papers also pointed out that despite the vast wealth of East Sudan, in the form of minerals and natural resources, in addition to the location and vital access routes, the region has still suffered from negligence and marginalisation when it comes to regional development. This reached its peak effects following the coup of Bashir and Turabi in 1989. This was as a result of the salvation regimes crippling policies like deliberately dissolving and uprooting the political and social structures which ergo attracted fewer groups to sign the Asmara agreement in 2006. As a result, this agreement failed to eradicate and erode the state of negligence and instead amplified the worsening social and economic situation.

Regarding the recent December 18th uprising, the researchers had differing views about the cause of the political vacuums that the Eastern areas suffered from and the responsibility of the central government in Khartoum and its political wings, including the force for Freedom of Change. Indeed, in reviving the traditional social figures, i.e the mayors and head of tribes, at the cost of the political structures, this played a compelling role in the political revolutions in Sudan from the 1980’s.

They also added that the current crisis in the East was part of a planned strife managed by figures from the previous regime who are still directing the civic and political institutions.

The researchers agreed that solving the problem is logically possible and feasible if the government moved to the ground to address the deep-rooted issues entrenched in land ownership and distribution of land, solved the issues of unemployment among the young, introduced viable development programmes and imposed the states authority.

There was agreement that without a robust solution to the inherent problems of the East, it will remain the weak link for the revolution and will be unable to bridge the gap and make the necessary transformation. With the increase in campaign rallying for tribal loyalties, the return to another cycle of violence will perpetually remain a possibility.

The workshop conclusion, emphasised by the Head of Horn of Africa department, spoke of the Centre’s long-term plan to continue to hold workshops and seminars concerning East Sudan which will result in the publishing of papers and digital seminars on the Centre’s website page as well as publishing a research report in December comprised of the findings.
He added that the Centre will work on holding a conference for the academics, researchers and politicians regarding East Sudan, once it is possible and safe.

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