Sudan: Anti-Graft Committee Accuses Minawi of Protecting Corruption in El Gezira

Khartoum / Wad Madani — Members of the now-suspended Empowerment Removal Committee* (ERC) have denounced the statements by Minni Arko Minawi, who said on Sunday that he holds the committee responsible for the flooding of large areas in El Gezira due to the confiscation of tools and machinery used to dig and maintain irrigation canals.

The Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) leader accused the committee of having aggravated the situation in El Gezira by having confiscated machinery used for digging and cleaning the irrigation canals of the El Gezira Irrigation Scheme, which used to be one of the largest irrigation projects in the world.

The ERC explained that the machinery was obtained by the companies without payment and used to sabotage older canals by companies linked to former dictator Omar Al Bashir’s regime.

In a statement on Monday, the ERC explained that last September it had recovered and seized 312 items of heavy machinery from 27 companies working to dig and clean canals.

The committee explained that the companies had obtained vehicles from the Sudan Agricultural Bank (a governmental institution) without paying for them, with the approval of the project management. The value of the machinery amounted to $55 million, not paid for by the companies.

The committee further explained that the machinery contributed to sabotaging the engineering system of older irrigation canals, which caused damage to farmers who were forced to abandon their lands.

The ERC pointed out Minawi’s association with the companies group’s most prominent owner, Abdul Bagi Ali, a member of the now-dissolved National Congress Party of former dictator Omar Al Bashir who recently joined the SLM led by Minawi.

This is by no means the first time that remnants of the former regime are accused of sabotaging the irrigation scheme or of mismanagement, corruption, embezzlement, and looting of the scheme’s resources.

In late 2014, Al Bashir described the scheme as “a burden on the country’s budget” and worked to transfer land ownership to the private sector and foreign investors. The Farmers Union was also disbanded by the Al Bashir regime.

The ERC also revealed yesterday that the October 25 military coup caused the suspension of a $2 billion grant from the International Development Association (IDA), of which $650mln was to be allocated to the development of irrigation systems in the Gezira project. The rest was meant for other major agricultural projects.

In an interview with Al Jazeera Live TV on Sunday, Minawi, who is also wali (governor) of the Darfur region leading member of the split-off Forces for Freedom and Change-National Accord (FFC-NA), also held the former government of PM Abdallah Hamdok and Sudan’s Sovereignty Council responsible for the aggravation of the situation in Sudan after the floods.

“Sudan is paying the price of the marginalisation it suffers because of previous governments,” he added.

Minawi accused the ERC of being particularly responsible and worsening the situation in El Gezira after suspending ‘relief organisations’.

He also appealed to the international community to provide relief to those affected by the torrential rains and floods in El Gezira, bringing more resources into the area. He explained that the current Sovereignty Council is moving to rescue the stricken families and extend a helping hand to those affected.

* The full name of the committee is the Committee for Dismantling the June 30 1989 Regime, Removal of Empowerment and Corruption, and Recovering Public Funds. It was established by the government of Abdallah Hamdok at the end of 2019 with the aim to purge Sudan of the remnants of the Al Bashir regime. Empowerment (tamkin) is the term with which the ousted government of Omar Al Bashir supported its affiliates by granting them far-going privileges, including government functions, the setting-up of various companies, and tax exemptions.

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