Sudan Crises: Reading From The Same, Old Book

Sudan Crises: Reading From The Same, Old Book

By: Alsir Sidahmed

 

For more than three months of the political and socio-economic unrest still engulfing the country the government continue to adopt a piecemeal approach to the multiple crises that became in itself an added factor for instability that adds to fuelling the continued unrest.

Out of the blue, the newly appointed finance minister Mustafa Hawli issued a draconian decree compelling farmers to hand over all their wheat production to the Agricultural Bank at a SDG1850 pounds price for each sack.

It would have make some sense if the decree is restricted to those who got some finance from the Agricultural Bank. And that is why it is draconian. All in all there are some 600, 000 feddans all over the country that were planted with wheat, half of that area is in the Gezira region. This remarkable expansion was a direct result of the lucrative stabilization price of SDG1800 announced earlier on at the beginning of the season, which provided the necessary incentive for farmers to look seriously at planting wheat and it is estimated that at least half of this area was either financed through personal resources of those farmers either directly or through the contractual agreements they went into with various companies.

And that is why it is strange to order the farmers, who did not have the privilege of getting finance from the government in the first place, to hand their yield to the government, let aside the ability of the official bodies to enforce such order.

On the face of it, this decree reflects a state of panic which is engulfing some officials. With current anti-government demonstrations, now in their third month and were sparked initially by the high cost of bread, the government that subsidizes each flour sack with an unbearable and unsustainable SDG600 thought of the easy short cut of monopolizing and using the government’s heavy hand to control the country’s wheat production, without resorting to recent history of similar experiences that have backfired with mixed results at best, if not outright disasters.   

The current anti-government climate will likely embolden farmers not to comply with the official request to hand over their wheat. A similar case of the southern part of Port Sudan sea port, where workers opposition succeeded in halting a 20-year contract allowing a Phillippe company to operate that segment of the container port.

It was the same combination of mismanagement, inefficiency, lack of transparency, possible corruption, and a long tradition of public sector mentality that is complicating an already difficult and complicated situation.

Back to wheat it was the narrow approach resting on the worry of how to provide enough flour that covers consumption needs, but without looking at the big picture of the whole socio-economic and political set up.

The current unrest is spearheaded by the youth with girls occupying a remarkable position. In broader terms it is addressed against the establishment that has been running the country since its independence, though specifically it targets the current regime, whose 30 years of rule has led to this situation.

However, the way out is to translate the late recognition that there is a crisis into specific steps shelving, in effect, the declared state of emergency and allow for more freedom for the political parties, the press and freeing all those arrested during the past two months because of their actual or alleged role in fuelling anti-government demonstrations.

But these will be simple measures that helps in creating a conducive environment for a serious dialogue on a new phase for the country’s future. For quite long time, the Ingaz regime has detested the word “provisional” in any form, especially if it is related to governance and its control.

But the current status quo is not sustainable politically or economically bearing in mind that there is hardly any substantial help coming from abroad. Equally those hoping and working for change through a popular uprising should know well that such endeavor is not welcomed regionally, a fact that should push for some form of outreach and reconciliation to have a unified domestic front able to stand up before complicating challenges. Though the ball is still in the government’s court and it can take the initiative, but that window is closing fast and the price needs to be paid is getting costlier by the day.

 

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