Rev­o­lu­tion has fur­ther to go – rail­way union

Pretoria News - - WORLD -

STAND­ING on the plat­form where he and other pro­test­ers packed a train to Khar­toum in April to pres­sure Su­dan’s mil­i­tary to share power with civil­ians, Ab­de­laziz Ab­dal­lah made clear the rev­o­lu­tion driven by their city has much fur­ther to go.

A vet­eran rail­way worker-turned union leader, Ab­dal­lah was among the first to take to the streets in this labour strong­hold in De­cem­ber, spark­ing a na­tional up­ris­ing that top­pled long­time ruler Omar al-Bashir almost four months later.

It took another four months for the mil­i­tary, which had ousted Bashir, to for­mally agree to a three-year power shar­ing deal with a civil­ian-led tran­si­tional gov­ern­ment.

Peo­ple in At­bara, a colo­nial-era rail­way hub, sup­port the na­tional gov­ern­ment, but say some of the main griev­ances which drove their up­ris­ing – poor salaries and un­em­ploy­ment – re­main.

“Rail­way work­ers have among the low­est state salaries” earn­ing as lit­tle as $26.67 (R392) a month while need­ing at least 10 000 Syr­ian pounds (R688) to get by, said Ab­dal­lah.

They also want funds to re­vive the rail­way – once Africa’s long­est net­work but now largely derelict.

They are tough de­mands for Prime Min­is­ter Ab­dalla Ham­dok, who is try­ing to avert the col­lapse of an econ­omy wrecked by three decades of mis­man­age­ment and US sanc­tions.

Whether he can meet the ex­pec­ta­tions of thou­sands of rail­way work­ers will be a test for the whole coun­try, as At­bara has been a hot­bed of un­rest since in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain in 1956.

The pro­test­ers have formed re­sis­tance com­mit­tees, which helped main­tain the up­ris­ing and now want a say in their city. But they also fume that the city is still run by a mil­i­tary gov­er­nor. Bashir’s se­cu­rity net­work has lost some power but its of­fi­cers re­main in At­bara as else­where and sol­diers, while no longer pa­trolling the streets, are sta­tioned in nearby bar­racks.

“Noth­ing has changed for cit­i­zens and the youth. The civil ser­vice is still made up of the for­mer regime,” said Adel Sheikh, a se­nior mem­ber of At­bara’s Forces for Free­dom and Change coali­tion.

At­bara, at the junc­tion of the Nile and At­bara rivers, has been a barom­e­ter for Su­dan since Bri­tish colo­nial­ists es­tab­lished a rail­way hub here, build­ing dozens of vil­las to house rail­way man­agers which now lie empty.

Maps en­ti­tled “Su­dan rail­ways” still hang on walls in ad­min­is­tra­tive build­ings where re­ceipts printed in English and Su­danese lie on aban­doned desks. |

African News Agency (ANA)

SU­DANESE Prime Min­is­ter Ab­dalla Ham­dok is try­ing to avert the col­lapse of an econ­omy wrecked by decades of mis­man­age­ment and US sanc­tions. |

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