Dam-Flooded Communities in Sudan Appeal for Humanitarian Assistance

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Flooded home in Merowe Dam reservoir area.
Flooded home in Merowe Dam reservoir area.
Some 600 families have reportedly been flooded out of their homes along the Nile in Sudan in the past few days due to rising waters in the nearly complete Merowe Dam reservoir. Local communities say the move to abruptly fill the reservoir was deliberate, part of a plan to forcibly evict those villages that have been most vocal in their call for fair compensation and replacement lands. As many as 25 villages could ultimately be affected by the rising waters.

According to eyewitnesses, waters began rising around the island of Atram in the Manasir District without warning. Inhabitants had to move to improvised shelter on higher ground. Promised local resettlement areas are not ready to receive the refugees, nor have affected citizens received compensation. The communities say they have been abandoned by the government's Dam Implementation Unit, and appeal to the international community for urgent humanitarian assistance.

According to some observers, dam management has repeatedly called for "hijrat al-far" or "migration like the rats" – in other words, submerging villages to force out those who have not consented to leave.

The Manasir people – the primary victims of the flooding – say they are refuse to be moved to harsh desert lands away from the river. They have overwhelmingly chosen to be resettled onto their own lands around the reservoir. The government appeared to agree to this in 2006, but since then, according to Manasir leaders, has tried to force the people onto more distant lands that the communities feel will be less fertile.
A temporary school set up by those flooded out by Merowe Dam
A temporary school set up by those flooded out by Merowe Dam
Amri community image

A statement by the Manasir Executive Committee, released July 31, states: "An acute dispute occurred between the Manasir and the Dam Implementation Unit when the latter 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."

The US$1.8 billion dam is being built by China's CCMD consortium with the assistance of European companies Lahmeyer (Germany) and Alstom (France). It is he largest such project on the Nile since the Aswan high dam was built in Egypt in the 1960s.

Information out of the area remains difficult to confirm. The United Nations Mission in Sudan/Human Rights has been denied access to the area for the past two years. Journalists and independent observers are frequently prevented from travelling to the dam region, and the community leaders have reported that they were prevented from publishing their appeal for assistance in Sudanese newspapers.

For the past year, the communities have been putting in place an emergency plan in anticipation that the dam authorities might try to flood them out of their homes. Some sites have been prepared and those forced out of their homes are being provided with temporary shelter, food provisions, and fodder for their animals so long as supplies last. However, the Manasir are calling for solidarity from the international community, both through donations to buy medicines and food locally and through publicity for their plight.

Media contacts: 

Ali Askouri (London): +44 794 66 00 238

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