Revolution has further to go – railway union
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. |
SUDANESE Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is trying to avert the collapse of an economy wrecked by decades of mismanagement and US sanctions. |