PORT SUDAN – Surprise protests by hundreds of people on Monday blockaded Sudan’s Red Sea port to protest against a landmark peace agreement signed over the weekend, complaining that they had been excluded from the deal.
The protesters are from among the Beja people, who were angry that representatives who signed Saturday’s deal with the government came from the rival Beni Amer tribe.
Since Sunday they have blocked the docks and the highway linking Port Sudan, the transit point for most of the country’s foreign trade, to the rest of the country.
“We’re carrying out this action because those who signed (the agreement) do not represent the east of Sudan and because the text (of the deal) does not take into consideration our point of view,” one of the organisers of the protest, Sidi Moussa, told AFP on Monday.
The head of the dockers union, Aboud Elshribini, said: “We won’t allow anything to go through as long as the government does not satisfy our demand and freeze the agreement.”
Men in traditional white robes carried sticks or swords and chanted “Beja Hadid”, meaning “the Beja people are strong like iron.”
Security forces did not intervene and there was no immediate reaction from the government.
The historic deal, hailed by the international community as a key milestone to ending decades of war, was signed by the government and a coalition of rebel groups, the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF).
The rebels included groups from Darfur, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, while political parties from Sudan’s impoverished east were also party to the agreement.
All had spent decades opposing the regime of ousted president Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled in 2019.
But the Beja protesters said Saturday’s deal excluded them.
Sudan’s east has experienced several violent clashes in recent months between rival ethnic groups jockeying for political posts.
The country is currently led by a precarious transitional government which took power several months after Bashir’s ouster.
It is struggling to rebuild an economy beleaguered by decades of conflict and US sanctions.