Demonstrators blocked access to Sudan's main container terminal in Port Sudan on Sunday, October 4, in protest at the signing of a peace agreement with various rebel groups in the country. Local residents and port workers reportedly blocked the three entrances to the terminal, as well as a section of the main road connecting Port Sudan with the capital Khartoum. Similar protests also resulted in the closure of the port of Suakin, 60km (37 miles) south of the city.
The protest was reportedly led by members of the Port Sudan Workers Union, who stated that eastern Sudanese interests and concerns had not been properly addressed in the peace agreement which was signed in the South Sudanese capital Juba on Saturday, October 3. Demanding the annulment of the peace deal and the reopening of negotiations, the head of the union threatened further industrial and protest action if the agreement is not canceled. However, it remains unclear whether further strikes are currently planned.
Further protests and associated disruptions to travel and port operations are likely in Port Sudan and surrounding areas in the medium term. There is a realistic possibility of violence and an escalation in unrest if security forces intervene in the protests, with restrictions and emergency measures, including a curfew, likely to be imposed.
Sudan's transitional government has continued long-running peace talks since the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 to resolve the various disputes which have long fed instability and conflict in multiple areas of the country. Following an initial peace plan in August, a comprehensive agreement was signed in Juba on October 3 between the government and representatives of many of the country's rebel movements under the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) coalition. However, several groups, including the Darfur-based Sudan Liberation Movement - Abdul Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW) faction, refused to back the deal, whilst activists in the east claimed that the deal did not address the concerns of local communities in the region.
Tribal and political tensions have been increasing in Port Sudan and other areas in the east of the country since the coup which toppled Bashir, leading to several outbreaks of violent unrest in the city. Much of the violence has been linked to clashes between the eastern region's Beni Amer and Nuba communities over water resources, which have seen dozens of people killed in Port Sudan and other cities.
Those in Port Sudan and the wider eastern region are advised to monitor developments in their particular area of operations, avoid all demonstrations and political gatherings as a precaution, and plan alternative routes if traveling in case of road blocks. Travelers should heed any directives issued by local authorities, including curfews, and liaise with in-country sources to ascertain the current situation at their destination.
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