Part of Sudan 2020 peace deal suspended after eastern protests

Soldiers from the Ugandan People's Defense Forces 4th Infantry Division patrol June 16, 2005 through a rural area of Patiko Sub-District in Lira, northern Uganda. The soldiers were on the lookout for rebels from the Lord's Resistance Army. Over the last 19 years the rebel LRA has kidnapped thousands of children and left a trail of destroyed villages and terrorized people. The peace agreement between the Sudan government and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army have benefitted Uganda by denying safe havens to the LRA in the south of Sudan. As attacks from the LRA have reduced in the last few months, the UPDF claims there are less than 500 rebel fighters and eight commanders remaining in the field. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sudan’s ruling Sovereign Council on Thursday suspended a section of a 2020 peace deal with rebel groups dealing with the east of the country following tribal protests against the deal.

In October 2020, the government signed a peace pact with multiple rebel groups in Sudan’s far-flung regions with a view to ending the ethnic conflicts that have dogged the country since independence.

FILE PHOTO: The head of Sudan’s sovereign council, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, seated center-left, President of South Sudan Salva Kiir, seated center, and President of Chad Idriss Deby, seated center-right, attend a ceremony to sign a peace deal between Sudan’s transitional authorities and a rebel alliance. /AP

Although the deal focused on three battleground regions — Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan — it left minority communities in other parts of Sudan feeling sidelined.

Among those were members of the Beja people of eastern Sudan, who mounted protests across the east for more than a month from mid-September.

The demonstrations included a blockade of oil pipelines and the trade hub of Port Sudan, a move that sparked shortages of basic goods across the country and threatened an already-struggling economy.

The protesters ended their campaign on October 25 when the military staged a coup in which top general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan dissolved the government.

But they warned they would resume the blockade of Port Sudan after December 19 unless the government revised the text of the 2020 deal.

On Thursday Sovereign Council vice-president Mohamed Hamdan Daglo said the eastern Sudan track of the deal had been suspended “until an accord is reached with residents of east Sudan”.

“The parties to the East will sit together to reach an agreement to solve all the problems facing the people in East Sudan,” Daglo was quoted as saying by the official SUNA news agency.

The Beja make up roughly around 10 percent of Sudan’s 45 million people, according to the latest official figures published in 2008.

They are split into various tribes, including the rival Al-Hadendoa and Beni Amer tribes.

In 2020, members of the Beni Amer signed onto the section of the peace deal related to the east.

Member of Al-Hadendoa say those who signed do not represent all the Beja people and accuse them of having made too many concessions to the government.

They are demanding better representation in decision-making, and more government funds for their impoverished region.

Though eastern Sudan is known for its fertile fields, gold mines, and maritime links it is also the most impoverished part of Sudan — a country already ranked by the United Nations as among the poorest in the world.