x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Sudan has little to celebrate ahead of Eid

Sudanese have endured two years of rising prices, a sinking currency and an unemployment rate estimated to exceed 30 per cent.

KHARTOUM // Grieving over deaths during recent protests and struggling with economic hardship, Sudanese say they will face a grim Eid Al Adha next week.

Abbas Mohammed Ahmad, 28, says he is mourning his brother killed in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman during the late-September demonstrations sparked by rising fuel prices.

“I can’t describe my emotions,” said Mr Ahmad, a veterinary surgeon who had set his wedding for the day after Eid, Sudan’s most important holiday that this year falls next Tuesday.

“I planned a big ceremony with my friends and family. But now there will be no ceremony, only the wedding,” he said.

“Even the Eid itself will be completely different.”

Thousands of people, many of them Khartoum-area poor, took to the streets after September 23 when the government cut fuel subsidies.

The protests and calls for the downfall of the regime were the worst urban unrest of President Omar Al Bashir’s 24-year rule.

Amnesty International said security forces are believed to have killed more than 200 protesters.

Authorities report 60-70 deaths, and say they had to intervene when crowds turned violent, attacking petrol stations and police.

The government’s slashing of subsidies sent the retail prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas soaring by more than 60 per cent.

Mr Al Bashir said the move aimed to prevent the “collapse” of an economy beset by inflation and an unstable currency since the separation of South Sudan.

Khartoum lost billions of dollars in export earnings when the South became independent in 2011, taking with it most of Sudan’s oil production.

Sudanese have endured two years of rising prices, a sinking currency and an unemployment rate estimated to exceed 30 per cent.

“We are facing difficult times,” said Hannan Jadain, who sells tea from the roadside in South Khartoum.

“For Eid we normally need to buy a lot of things, but the prices of everything have gone up. I don’t think this Eid will be the same as before,” she said.

“We lost many youths in the demonstrations. But we are also sad because we can’t provide our children with what they need.”

Those who can afford it will slaughter a sheep, but they cost around US$130 (Dh477) — at the widely used black market rate — an impossible expense for many.

“I have no money to get it,” said one man who preferred not to be named.

For Hamdan Moussa, 53, a car mechanic, the atmosphere around Eid will nonetheless be different.

Eid was normally an occasion to exchange family visits with a friend in Omdurman.

But Mr Moussa said the death of his friend’s son during the protests has changed everything.

“We will still go to their home but it won’t be the same,” he said.

Agence France-Presse