An Emergency Appeal for Urgent Relief of Merowe Dam Communities

The Executive Committee of the Manasir Community
Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Executive Committee of the Manasir Community People Affected by Merowe Dam (DCM) would like first to give a short necessary account about the background of conflict between the Manasir the government by stating the following facts:

1. The Manasir are the third and last group of the affected citizens by Merowe Dam. They represent 68 % of the total affected citizens. They all dwell in River Nile, and they all do not object to the construction of the dam.

2. The resettlement of the Manasir at certain sites around the dam lake is one of the two resettlement options stated in the Resettlement Act of the year 2002. The other second option is El Makabrab Project east of Eddammer.

3. The majority of the Manasir (17 thousands families out of 21 thousands families) expressed their wish to be resettled in their lands around the lake. This wish was confirmed later in July 2007 when the government conducted a survey among the Manasir by its central statistic organ which showed that 70 % of the affected Manasir want to remain and be resettled on their lands around the lake .The result of survey was announced officially to the public by the government. It worth mentioning that there is a strong controversy about how many people are affected by the dam.

4.An acute dispute occurred between the Manasir and the Dam Implementation Unit (DIU) when the later denied the Manasir their right to be resettled on their lands around the lake, and insisted on executing a plan to evacuate them all from their lands around the lake to desert locations in order to appropriate their lands for undisclosed purposes.

5.The DIU is headed by a federal minister responsible only and directly to the president of the republic. He has plenary powers and his unit has exceptional exemption from any of the country’s laws despite Nivasha’s agreement and the interim constitution. It has its own army, security forces and independent services and construction units. It is therefore no wonder that the DIU carries out its own compensation and resettlement measures and abuses its powers by resorting to violent repression instead of constructive dialogue with the representatives of the affected citizens. Therefore relations between the Manasir and DIU remained ever tense.

In Dec. 2004, 4 leaders of the Manasir community were detained by the DIU security forces for almost a year without charges or trials and were subjected to torture and abuse. In Dec. 2005, the conflict escalated when Chinese contractors occupied water wells belonging to Manasir nomads. A massacre was about to occur when the DIU security forces with heavy artillery and automatic machine guns surrounded a peaceful meeting attended by the Manasir in Sani Oasis. This incident made the central government intervene. It declared that it had withdrawn responsibility for the Manasir compensation and resettlement affairs from DIU and transferred it to the governor of River Nile State, and consequently Nile State signed in the 1st of June 2006 an agreement with the Manasir in which it undertook to resettle the majority of them in their local option around the lake. It backed its agreement by a presidential decree (Number 70 – 2006) and a series of state resolutions. The signing of this first agreement was celebrated publicly in a big festival and rejoicement, but it was shocking to the Manasir when the Chief executive of DIU in a TV interview thee days after signing the agreement depicted the agreement as a trick and role play between government organs to gain time. He also used his exceptional powers to carry on his own program contrary the agreement. He pressed ahead in constructing a resettlement project in the desert north of Abu Hamad in contravention to the agreement. In Feb.2007, he made a visit to Abu Hamad to inaugurate the beginning of that project.

The Manasir, who reject the project, expressed their protest with a peaceful demonstration in Abu Hamad and two of their leaders narrowly escaped assassination in that demonstration. The government reacted to their demonstration by sending 26 military cars armed with machine guns to the village of Kirbican in the Manasir region. The force was trapped in the village by its inhabitants with their traditional weapons, and the government had to send four of the Manasir leaders from Khartoum by a helicopter to mediate the release of the force. But once the force was released, six of the Manasir leaders, including two of the mediators, were immediately arrested and detained for two months without charges or trails. They were not released till the government was forced to set them free before the Manasir agreed to sign with it a second agreement to normalize relations and to abandon their plan of building two villages with self help, after the government reconfirmed to them its obligation to resettle their majority in their local option around the lake.     

6. One year after signing the second agreement (May 2007), the Manasir found out that the government was not serious in implementing its agreement. Its main objective was to gain time. So a few weeks before closing the dam gates in mid-April 2008, the Chief executive of DIU warned all those who remained behind the dam of an imminent inundation, informing them that no local resettlement is available to them and by closing the dam gates, hundreds of families of Amri people who remained in their islands and their villages along the Nile banks were the first to be flooded. The inundation of the Manasir lands followed on the 24 of July. Up to July 28th, seven villages and inhabited islands were completely submerged. The victims were 205 families, and their number is expected to increase to more than two thousand families by the end of the flood season in mid-October. It is a pity that the government has taken strict security measures to deny the access of the press and the humanitarian organizations to the affected area. It has neither provided relief nor allowed others to provide such help. It even prevented the UN representatives to visit the affected area in order to assess or monitor the situation. It also deliberately disconnected the Sudani wireless communication service which is the only available service in the affected area. It also refused to release key data such as the reservoir contour highest level, the dam operation system and the Environmental Impact Assessment.

7. This severe flooding did not take the Manasir by surprise. It was clear to them that the government would never honor its agreement, so they depended on themselves and took emergency measures. They made different arrangements and organized themselves into different task force groups. They could successfully rescue all the victims with their movable properties, losing only their homes and planted crops. They provided the victims with temporary shelter, food provisions, and fodder for their animals. They will continue supplying them with provisions depending on their limited resources till the victims are able to sustain themselves and begin a new life starting from the scratch. The ECM therefore made this emergency appeal for all benevolent inside the Sudan and abroad for help. It also meant that all people get informed with their real problem in order to sympathize with their case and to appreciate their great sacrifice for the benefit of all Sudan.

If you would like to donate to the communities' emergency fund, write to:

ECM – Khartoum July 29th 2008