3 July 2018

Sudan: Security Blocks Farmers' Alliance Conference

Omdurman — The Sudanese security service prevented a press conference staged by El Gezira and El Managil alliance of farmers in Omdurman. The farmers wanted to announce plans to take their case to court.

Security agents blocked the entrance of the building, the headquarters of the National Umma Party, to prevent people from entering. Mohamed El Jack Abu Shamma, leading member of the farmers' alliance, told Radio Dabanga: "The aim of the press conference is to inform people that the Sudanese government has committed deliberate damage to the agricultural scheme, with their aim to sell it."

Abu Shamma claimed that the assets of the scheme, which used to be one of the world's largest irrigation projects for nearly eighty years, reach approximately SDG 65 billion. "We wanted to announce, we are on our way to take this case to court."

El Gezira and El Managil Agricultural Scheme is located between the Blue and White Niles, south of Khartoum. In the past it used to be the sole source of hard currency for the country, through the cultivation of cotton. During the last few decades, however, the cotton production was reduced to less than 100,000 acres.

In late 2014, President Omar Al Bashir described the Scheme as a burden on the country's budget. Early September 2015, the Agriculture Ministry amended the El Gezira Scheme Act, aimed at transferring land ownership to the private sector and foreign investors. The Farmers Union was replaced by 'work associations'.

"What is happening now, is that there are companies who want to buy the scheme with submissive contracts after the state lifted its hand on the management and financing of the scheme. We call on the government to rehabilitate the scheme and be responsible," Abu Shamma said.

This week, security agents detained the son of Hasabo Ibrahim, a senior leader of El Gezira and El Managil Agricultural Scheme in Khartoum for one day. He warned in June 2016 for the consequences of Khartoum's "destructive agricultural policies". He said that a large number of irrigation channels have been removed by the authorities during the past years.

In May, the Ministry of Agriculture announced that the state has sold railway lines in the agricultural scheme, and settled the issue by giving houses to 2,500 affected workers in Sudan's largest agricultural project.

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