Sudan protesters agree to resumption of oil exports

Sudan’s government reaches deal with tribal demonstrators in eastern Sudan after days of protests threatened energy supplies.

A banner announcing in Arabic the sit-in and blockade is seen at the main entrance to Port Sudan's southern port [Ibrahim Ishaq/AFP]

Sudan’s government has reached an agreement with tribal protesters to allow the resumption of exports of landlocked South Sudan’s crude oil via a terminal on the Red Sea, Sudanese officials said.

Protesters from the Beja tribes in eastern Sudan – demonstrating against what they say is a lack of political power and poor economic conditions in the region – have been blocking roads and forcing Red Sea ports to close in recent weeks.

A government delegation headed by a member of the ruling sovereign council met tribal elders on Sunday and secured a deal to allow oil exports from the Bashayer port, the council said.

“The joint meeting between the government delegation headed by General Shams al-Din Kabashi, a member of the sovereign council, and a delegation from the Beja council reached an agreement on allowing the passage of South Sudanese oil exports through the Bashayer port,” Khartoum’s ruling sovereign council said in a statement late Sunday.

The council did not disclose the terms of the deal – which came hours after senior government officials flew to Port Sudan, the Red Sea trade hub – or give further details.

The governmental delegation led by Kabashi included Oil Minister Gadein Ali Obeid, Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi and others.

They put forward proposals to eventually open all ports and roads leading to the city, which protesters began blocking early last week.

The Beja tribe elders tentatively agreed and said they would need a week to further discuss the initiatives, the statement added.

Bashayer is the main terminal, near Port Sudan, from which landlocked South Sudan’s oil supplies are shipped to global markets.

The Sudanese energy and oil ministry warned on Saturday the port’s oil depots would be completely full in 10 days’ time if the blockage continued. That would, in turn, force South Sudanese oilfields to halt production.

The protesters also forced the closure of a pipeline that carries imported crude to the capital, Khartoum.

‘Solving the crisis’

The breakthrough came after Information Minister Hamza Baloul confirmed to AFP news agency earlier on Sunday the delegation’s arrival while another senior official, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “The delegation will not return [to Khartoum] before solving the crisis”.

Neighbouring South Sudan produces about 162,000 barrels of oil per day, which are transported by pipeline to Port Sudan and then exported.

The Khartoum government receives $25 for every barrel of oil sold from South Sudan, according to official figures.

Sudan is governed by a joint civilian-military sovereign ruling council that was formed months after the ouster of long-time leader Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.

It serves alongside a transitional government, headed by civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, which last October signed a peace agreement with several rebel groups.

But the eastern protesters, from Sudan’s Beja minority, say the deal with rebels from the Darfur region, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan states ignored their interests.

Speaking in Khartoum on Sunday, Sovereign Council chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan described the protesters’ demands as “a political matter that must be dealt with politically”.

While impeding access to Port Sudan, the protesters also blocked the entrance to the city’s airport and a bridge linking Kassala with the rest of the country.

Tensions after the coup attempt

Meanwhile, tensions between Sudan’s military and civilian leaders reached a low point on Sunday in the wake of last week’s attempted coup by soldiers loyal to al-Bashir.

The two sides of the uneasy military-civilian transition partnership have traded barbs following the coup attempt on Tuesday, with generals accusing politicians of alienating the armed forces and failing to govern properly. Civilian officials have accused the military of agitating for a takeover of power.

On Sunday, members of the Committee to Dismantle the June 30, 1989 Regime and Retrieve Public Funds said they were told the military had withdrawn its protection from the committee’s headquarters and 22 of its assets, replacing them with police officers. Senior officials called on the public to prepare for protests over the withdrawal of official security details

‘Last drop of blood’

The committee, whose purpose is to dismantle the political and financial apparatus of the ousted government, has been criticised by the generals participating in the transition, who served under al-Bashir.

Mohamed Al-Faki Sulieman, committee leader and member of the joint military-civilian Sovereign Council, Sudan’s highest authority, said his official protection had also been withdrawn.

Speaking to a large crowd who were chanting pro-revolution and anti-military rule slogans at the committee’s headquarters, Sulieman asked people to be prepared to return to street protests if necessary.

“We will defend our government, our people, and the democratic transition to the last drop of blood, and if there is any threat to the democratic transition we will fill the streets and be at the forefront, as is our responsibility,” he said.

In a statement on Sunday, the Sudanese Professionals Association, the body that helped lead the 2018-19 uprising that led to al-Bashir’s removal, called for the end of the partnership with the military.

Earlier in the day, sovereign council head al-Burhan said in a speech the military would not stage a coup against the transition but remained critical of civilian politicians.

Hamdok said the dispute “is not between the military and civilians, but between those who believe in the civilian democratic transition either military or civilian, and those who want to block the path from both sides”.

Source: News Agencies