22-February-2024

Weekly Press Columns Digest

Weekly Press Columns Digest

KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - In the editor’s focus last week were three articles tackling the calamitous violence in the town of Aljenaina in West Darfur State, the resignation of the Energy Ministry’s Undersecretary against the backdrop of the electric power shortages and the local attempts to reduce reliance on imported wheat.

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About the bloody clashes in the town of Aljienaina, capital of West Darfur State, wrote Editor-in-Chief of Alsayha (the outcry) newspaper, Mr. Altahir Satti:

The tribal massacre in Aljienaina has been dragging on since last Saturday, the second massacre in the area during this year. The number of those killed or hurt is now above 200. We say the second massacre because the authorities did not learn from the lessons of the previous one, and will not do so in the future in order to evade a third, a fourth ..etc .. massacre.

Governor of West Darfur Abdalla Aldoma is over seventy. And when Aldoma and others his age were nominated for state governors posts, I advised the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) that consultative and legislative posts suit the elders better than the demanding governors’ posts. The same applies to the posts of regional ministers and municipality chief administrators.

It is not just Aldoma who is responsible for what happens in West Darfur. Countries with wise systems keep firearms in their hands, to be used by their own regular forces, and leave the other market commodities to the civil society. But leaving armaments in the hands of the civil society would lead to such tribal fighting.

There are many criteria for classifying rogue states. But the most important criterion for classifying rouge countries is the inability of a country to take monopoly of firearms; in the hands of its regular forces.

Although the causes of the war are clear, the revolution’s Government will not exert enough effort to put an end to this tribal fighting. The state’s authority will not be imposed by the force of the law nor with the monopoly of weapons. That is because nature does not allow for a vacuum. The absence of the state authority means the authority of the tribe, to the extent of possessing armaments and using them as the tribe may wish.

Accordingly, my advice is for Governor Aldoma to be replaced by a qualified governor. Then impose the state authority by the force of the law. Hasten to implement the Juba peace accords and the formation of the joint military and security forces. Complete the state institutions. Then develop the Darfur states for the communities to settle down and contribute to production. Development and education are war’s and poverty’s antidotes. When the hands do not carry the tools of production and the pens of knowledge, we do not expect from them anything other than carry weapons!!

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Writer, Ms. Hanadi Alsiddiq has commented on the electric supply crisis that prompted the Undersecretary of the electricity sector at the Ministry of Energy’, Engineer Khayri Abdelrahman, to tender his resignation. She wrote in the Aljareeda (The Newspaper):

 

Engineer Khayri has explained in his letter of resignation that earnings from the electricity sales do not cover the production costs, even after the recent tariff huge hikes effected by the turn of the year.

The Finance Ministry is well aware about that after it audited all the electricity agency’s accounts, an audit that showed a deficit of about 115 billion pounds even after the tariff hike.

According to that, the Finance Ministry committed to pay the cost of imported fuel at a minimum of 101 billion pounds, a year. The Ministry said the electricity sector should pay the rest and redress the remaining deficit.

One of the causes for the deficit was the defunct regime’s decision erroneously scraping the National Electricity Corporation and deliberately dividing it into companies, thus doubling the electricity’s administrative cost and shattering its technical effort.

I may agree with Engineer Khayri when he lamented the state’s renewed inability to pay for the fuel as a result of which no more than 40,000 tons of furnace fuel could enter the country out of a projected 240,000 tons for the months from January to March.

This is in addition to the absence of cash flows the electricity agency uses to purchase spare parts and pay for annual and emergency maintenance contracts. Less than $5 million was paid out of a total $30 million to have been paid for maintenance costs in the said months.

What we can deduce from these statements of Engineer Khayri, that always used to come after an  official quits the job, is that the electricity sector needs to be restructured for several reasons, mostly to reduce the financial burden and give the sector advanced, flexible capabilities for management and advancement.

The present situation where the citizen is fed up, in the Capital in particular, requires from the government to consider the electricity issue a crucial matter because electricity is a strategic service on which different sectors in health, agriculture and the industry ..etc..depend.

To arrive at radical solutions, the Government should provide the requirements of the electricity sector in general, spare parts in particular, because the latter are the most important factors behind the continued outages. Further and above, the necessary funds should be made available. The government should demonstrate seriousness in applying the austerity it declared, which disappeared, by time, in most government agencies.

The government should demonstrate transparency by telling the public about the reality of problems the electricity sector faces. If it does, the citizen will be patient and supportive of radical solutions, even if they come late.

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Writing in the Alsudani (The Sudanese) daily newspaper, Dr. Abdellatif Albooni discussed the possibility of resolving the bread crisis relying on the locally produced wheat and sorghum as the Prime Minister Hamdok said 70% of the country needs would be covered by the locally produced wheat.

He wrote:

It is my belief that the road towards self-sufficiency in wheat begins with the reduction of wheat imports and, so, the consumption of imported wheat.

The initial step in this bid is the lifting of wheat subsidies. Here the one who wants imported wheat bread can go to the bakery!

But the problem remains for the citizens who got used to subsidized wheat. These would obviously turn to local alternatives. The kisra (sorghum bread) producers can replace tea street vendors. But the problem is that a roll of kisra is more expensive than a loaf of wheat bread. Here we have the paradox that locally produced bread is more expensive than imported bread. That is because the productivity of sorghum is low. Such a problem can be overcome in a single farming season. That is because most of Sudan’s lands can produce sorghum during the rainy season. The matter needs a little bit of technology and inputs that raise the productivity per acre from an average two bags to two tons (twenty bags). This is not fortunetelling. It was proved in the modern rain-fed farms in Gedaref, the Blue Nile and the White Nile districts. If this could happen, the sorghum prices could dwindle too much.

Raising sorghum productivity is the first gateway towards the scraping of the imported wheat bill. Sorghum can thus be a good alternative to wheat: sorghum can be baked in loaves: In addition to the experiment of mixed bread (what and sorghum), we have the food research institute in Shambat here that houses a lot of professors .

The second step could be to raise the production of the locally produced wheat horizontally and vertically. This has now become a reality, in spite of some hindrances. Thirdly: it is possible to raise extracted wheat flour up to 99 percent from the present 76 percent. The result of all these steps will be that we are going to have several types of bread: deluxe bread, commercial bread and popular bread. At that time everybody will become a buyer and there will be no onlookers and the food and import crisis will come to an end for good.

We can even become exporters ( a nation that fails to feed itself will not go forward).

But, my dears, what I am saying will go with the wind. The imported wheat interest groups are far stronger than we are. It is a global, regional, local and very local set up. I imagine them to be sticking their tongues out towards me saying: Soak this talk of yours in water and drink it up!

 

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