Babanusa / El Obeid / Khartoum — Three organisers of a demonstration against the lack of fuel in West Kordofan were detained by the military police in Babanusa on Sunday. In El Obeid, angry car owners blocked the highway to Khartoum in protest against the fuel crisis that is paralysing the entire country.
One of the demonstrators told Radio Dabanga that dozens of vehicle owners staged a peaceful march from fuel pumps in the town to the offices of the Babanusa security committee.
"We chanted slogans saying 'Wronged, wronged .. [the provision of] fuel is the right of the people'," he said. "We protested the provision of petrol and diesel to certain individuals and entities, while we, ordinary citizens, have not been able to get a drop of fuel for five days in a row."
He said that the security committee of Babanusa locality promised them to open the pumps again.
"But after we left the building, members of the military police followed us in three vehicles. They then jumped from their cars, and severely beat us with batons and kicked us with their heavy boots," he reported.
"A number of us were injured. The organisers of the demonstration, Badreldin Abdelrahim, Jibril Abdallah and El Basha Ibrahim, were detained and taken to the Babanusa military garrison."
On Sunday as well, hundreds of people cut off the highway connecting the North Kordofan capital of El Obeid and Khartoum for almost an hour. Not being able to obtain fuel for their vehicles, they demanded the North Kordofan state governor to resolve the problem.
More than 500 car owners and drivers demonstrated in front of the petrol station at the south-eastern entrance of El Obeid. They blocked the road with stones and tires, stopping traffic to and from the city from 10 am to 11 am.
The spontaneous protest erupted after the owner of the petrol station told the car owners that he had received instructions from the authorities to sell fuel only to government agencies.
A car owner told this station that the road was opened again after the North Kordofan state governor intervened and ordered the owner of the pump to provide the vehicles with fuel.
On Tuesday, hundreds of residents demonstrated in Wad Madani, capital of El Gezira, in protest against the fuel crisis, rise of prices and lack of basic commodities.
The scarcity of fuel that became acute in March is paralysing the entire country, amid growing discontent among the Sudanese.
The bus stations in Khartoum and in other Sudanese towns are witnessing huge crowds of people waiting for transportation, as most of the buses are lined up in front of fuel stations.
The fuel crisis in most Sudanese states has created problems in access to water, consumer goods, and transportation. Farmers are warning that the upcoming agricultural season will fail because of a the lack of diesel for their irrigation pumps. Livestock owners and traders are complaining about animals dying of thirst, as the water engines are stalled. The fuel shortages in Sudan are slowing down humanitarian operations as well.
Early this month, the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) instructed the Sudanese press not to cover the economic crisis, the fuel crisis, and the rise in food and consumer good prices.
In December last year, economists predicted a serious fuel crisis after the final decommissioning of the Port Sudan refinery, and the scheduled shutdown of El Jeili refinery for maintenance in early March.
An employee of El Jeili Refineries north of Khartoum attributed the scarcity of fuel to the reduction of quotas of petroleum products distributed to companies. "The crisis will most probably continue," he told this station earlier this month. "I doubt the Ministry of Oil will be able to meet the consumption needs after the government's stocks decreased."
Oil Minister Abdelrahman Osman announced in the first week of May that he is in discussion with the Government of Saudi Arabia about an annual provision of 1.8 million tonnes of oil to Sudan for the next five years. The deal that reportedly would be signed within days, is supposed to fill Sudan's fuel gap.