Hundreds of trucks carrying goods have stopped in Port Sudan, and dozens of container ships are lying anchored. For more than a month, protesters have laid siege to Sudan’s main port.
Roads to other provinces and the capital, Khartoum, were cut off, ports closed, and the Port Sudan airport temporarily closed.
Four weeks after the crisis began in mid-September, basic supplies to poor countries in northeastern Africa have been delayed, creating a new wave of shortages across the country.
Truck driver Mustafa Abdelkader told AFP: “I’ve been here for more than 24 days and my family depends on their income.”
“I could have transferred six shipments during that time and earned 120,000 SDG ($ 300). Now I’m struggling to buy food.”
Protests against the transitional government in Khartoum began when major eastern tribes blocked roads and stopped transporting them through the Red Sea port.
They are calling for the cancellation of some parts of the peace agreement reached between the government and the rebels in October 2020.
Demonstrators say the agreement, which includes a section on East Sudan, “does not represent” them.
Similar protests have taken place in the past, but only for a short time.
Ahmed Mahgoub, head of Port Sudan’s southern terminal, said: “About 60 percent of trade passes through Port Sudan in an average of 1,200 containers a day.
“We’re losing hundreds of thousands of dollars every day,” he told AFP.
The government says essential raw materials such as life-saving drugs, cereals, wheat and fuel are already in short supply.
Khartoum and other local bakeries in Sudan have been closed due to shortages.
Sudan is battling a deepening economic crisis that has worsened since the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 following public protests over financial difficulties.
Many Sudanese civilians are now struggling to make ends meet.
“We work long hours looking for bread, but all the bakeries are closed because there is not enough wheat,” said Ashgan, a 17-year-old tea vendor outside a bakery north of Khartoum.
“That’s the last thing we need. We’re already suffering.”
‘There are no plans to end the crisis’
The sustained impact is nationwide.
Protests erupted in South Darfur on Sunday over a shortage of bread due to a shortage of wheat due to the closure of Port Sudan.
Mohammad al-Nayer, a Sudanese economist, has accused the government of “failing to resolve the crisis in the east quickly” and has already aggravated the economic situation.
“Like the Bashir regime, the government has no plans or strategic resources to meet the country’s needs,” he added.
Port Sudan received only 27 ships in September, up from 65 in August, according to the country’s cargo federation.
Other small ports in the east, including the Ottoman port of Suakin, were closed.
In an interview with Agence France-Presse last week, Commerce Minister Ali Geddo said businesses had to redirect shipments to other ports since early October.
The union added that about 33,000 port workers and others working in customs and transportation did not earn any income.
This coincides with the ineffective efforts of the transitional government to lift the country out of economic hardship caused by decades of US sanctions and mismanagement under Bashir.
In recent months, with the support of the International Monetary Fund, economic reforms have been launched, including the abolition of subsidies for diesel and gasoline and the announcement of a change in the Sudanese pound to curb the black market.
The country is also struggling to break free of the three-digit inflation rate that fell slightly in August and September.
In August 2019, political divisions between the main factions leading the transition under the power-sharing agreement intensified.
On Friday, Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok described it as the worst and most dangerous group in transition.
He shared the activities of the independent ruling council of civilians and the military, citing clashes between factions.
Several civilian politicians have also blamed the military for the crisis in the eastern region and the failure of a coup attempt in September.
However, this has strengthened the position of the Port Sudanese protesters.
“We have submitted our complaint to the government and we want to negotiate further,” protest leader Abdullah Abochar told AFP.
On Friday, Hamdok said the call from eastern residents was “fair” and that their resentment stemmed from “decades of negligence and discrimination.”
He said he plans to hold an international conference to address these issues and fund development projects in the eastern region.
“The government needs to come up with a solution quickly,” Nyer said. Otherwise, the economic consequences will be catastrophic. “