In Eastern Sudan there is an ethnic and regional problem. The ethnic problem concerns the Beja, and the regional problem concerns the other ethnic groups who are living with them in this region e.g. Rashayda, Shukrya, Nubians, Fulani, Houssa, Riverian(from the north region), Nuba and people from Kordofan, Darfur and the South, as they are also suffering like the Beja from marginalization, underdevelopment and shortage of public services and welfare e.g. schools, hospitals and jobs. The Beja people are the original inhabitants of Eastern Sudan and one of the oldest nations in Africa. They are the largest ethnic group in Sudan (although they represent 13% of the population their share in power is less than 1%). They live in an area of 110,000 sq miles. The Beja Congress is the political party of this ethnic group. Referring to the problem of Sudan as a conflict between the Arab Muslims in the north, and the African Christians and pagans in the south is a flawed analysis and it is time to rectify the misconceptions. The western media is promoting this erroneous view. The UN and some western governments are doing the same, by pursuing a policy of double standards and discrimination by supporting the South and not supporting the Beja who have the same problems. We, the Beja people, are suffering more than the south, but we get no support from the west. If the UN and the west continue with this policy and support the current peace deal the result will be escalating war in other parts of the Sudan (e.g. the east and the west as is happening now in Darfur and the east).
The Beja are spreading in remote areas, the Red Sea shores and around the towns of Eastern Sudan. but they are facing a severe political problem that affected their existing. Because of this it comes of importance to address their problem in order to acknowledge others and make information available about the problems and policy of marginalisation towards this indigenous group. The paper is aiming to establish a supportive and encouraging environment that will assist in executing more studies. that can be produced through delving deep in the political, social and economic life of the Beja.
It is of importance to mention that the Beja problem is not of the day but it exists for decades and came to its peak since the independence. The ruling groups who inherited British administration favoured their ethnicity against other indigenous groups. This policy and practice led to the marginalisation of the Beja even in their own land. These factors will be analysed through out this paper. However with the existing of the NIF rule the Beja situation even came to worse. The civil war has played a great role in increasing poverty, diseases and unhealthy environment.
The Beja region is the mouth feeding of all the Sudan and the main source of the wealth of the capital and the two northern provinces, as all resources are either extracted from our region or imported and exported through it. In spite of this, our people are getting nothing from this wealth. Instead there are national schemes and projects ( these are projects found in the Beja region and all their returns go to the centre and the northern provinces) that brought to our region diseases, destruction and environmental pollution. The Beja suffer from newcomers to the region who drain our meager resources like water and wood for energy. Nepotism is depriving us of jobs, and agricultural and housing lands. The customs of Port Sudan harbour was moved to Khartoum to avail jobs for govt. party members and to prevent the Beja from claiming a share of the customs revenues as a regional source, leaving thousands of families from all Sudanese ethnic groups in Port Sudan without any income. Even though some of the families used to work there since 1905. Nepotism has become a law in the (NIF) regime - even in the Beja region. The few hospitals, schools and other facilities are becoming over-crowded due to mass exodus from other regions to the east. In schools, the competition became unfair, as Beja students do not speak the Arabic language which is used for teaching, as a mother tongue and they only learn it at school.
Appointing some of the Beja people to the central or local government, merely satisfies the needs of these people and not the Beja people. Even if the rulers of Beja provinces were Beja, this will not help us as decisions are made by the central government. We are not after ruling our own region and we are not job seekers, (see what happened to the ex-president of the Beja Congress, who was appointed as a ruler of HK province, which is under the hands of the Beja Congress, and was told to fight the Beja Congress, this is divide and rule policy). we do not want to rule our region only, we want to rule the whole Sudan or is this dedicated for the people of the north. We do not need a guardian to tell us what to do, we know our goals and how to achieve them. We want our constitutional rights as the largest ethnic group in Sudan. If we are granted these rights we can share in the national major decisions and take the responsibility of their consequences and we work for the welfare of our people and the whole of Sudan, and implement equality and justice for the whole nation. Now the country is ruled by the NIF system which is a racial, fundamentalist military system of a northern minority of 2.5% of the population of Sudan, which marginalizes all other ethnic groups. Therefore, all the problems of the Beja are a result of not sharing fairly in power and wealth. Who rules Sudan is not the problem but the problem is how it is ruled; it should be ruled by law and it should give people their rights and protect them. The presence of the Beja in power is a sign of sovereignty for them. They must share in the decision-making instead of just putting up with the consequences of bad decisions.
The Beja recognised that they are marginalised by the existing ruling class. As a result they address their problems and their right to share in power and wealth with the ruling groups. In 1991, this right have been ignored by the government. In 1991, the President of the State addressed the Beja that if they have claims for sharing power and wealth then the only method to do that is through fighting. Having this said by the head of the ruling class that consists of the riverian, made the methods to obtain equality and justice very clear. Since then some of the Beja decided to fight for their rights.
However, this was not the first time that Beja claim for their right in sharing power and wealth. In 1958 the Beja Congress was established with the aim of introducing development to the land and its people. The claims were including schooling opportunities, access to wealth and health programmes etc. But these claims have been neglected through years and during different successive governments of the Sudan whether democratic or militaries.
Right of sharing power
The dominant ruling class from the riverian views the right of governing is only for the riverian ethnic groups. This came to be since the Turkish rule that recruited the riverian to assist in ensuring order and security within the regime and also worked as civil servants in tax collection. Also because the foreign rule established its goverment bodies and schools in the centre of Sudan the inhabitants of the centre, the Riverians benifited from this.
Employed with the army, police or in the civil service, the Sudanese ‘riverian’ were able to strengthen their tribal positions and to also accumulate wealth through their income and positions. Thus through these activities they escalated their power. Moreover, by establishing relations with Egyptian traders, it was possible for Sudanese employees to join the trade market. Some actively participated in slave trade, by selling slaves to relatives active in the slave trade. All this economic activity led to the accumulation of wealth and power.
However, being favoured to bureaucracy which is the major system to share with governors policy making as well as executing of decisions continued even during the condominium rule. Through education opportunity, employment and access to methods of accumulating wealth the riverian succeeded in ensuring inequality policy and practices towards other ethnic groups.
Within this policy towards indigenous inhabitants, the riveren ignore other ethnic groups rights in power and wealth. This could be seen clearly in the case of the Beja of Eastern Sudan.
Among the 26 governors of states none is a Beja. Even those who governed the beja states are from the Riverian. Among the ministers only three in Kassala and one in the Red Sea are from the Beja. They are heading services ministries, in specific, ministries of health, roads and education. None of the Beja is allowed to be minister of finance. Non-Beja are allowed to be minister in our region but none of the Beja is allowed to be a minister or even district governor in other regions. Thus excluding from power is intentionally practiced by the Salvation regime.
Moreover, the government with its ruling party is pressing on Beja Congress inside Sudan to amalgamate in the National Congress. The BC was banned from political activities as the political organisations registrar referred it that the law does not allow political parties to be formed on ethnic or region basis. While for the northerners block, it is allowed.
Even among students unions, Beja are not allowed to organise themselves depending on their ethnicity or region but this is allowed to others. Double standard to marginalise Beja is highly practiced by the existing rule.
In the diplomats field only one Beja is appointed. From among the 23 diplomats that have been recently employed none of the Beja has been appointed despite that they passed all the requirements. From among the 700 who were selected to join the military institution none of the Beja has been selected.
Marginalization policies towards the Beja
Many features could be found as part of the marginalizing policy and practice towards Beja. It is clearly seen in denying the Beja the right to get access to government financial loans which if obtained will assist in improving and enhancing their life. Thus, according to the land law of the Sudan, ethnic groups are not allowed to own their own land as far as it is not registered as individual land. This law of the 1970s made life miserable. The normal people cannot understand what are the reasons that allow the government to take their ancestors' land. Making use of this, those who obtained the education and wealth and power made use of this favorite and supportive law to get loans from the governmental institution in particular the Agriculture Bank. The ruling class considers the Beja are only beneficiaries of the land so it does not work to improve their life through development projects. Despite that the government's refusal to confess that its policy towards indigenous groups is aiming to marginalize them. As it refuses any definition came to clarify what marginalization means. But as stated by Derar marginalized people are
Those who have access to second class citizenship place, access to poverty, access to illiteracy, access to diseases, access to miserable life, access to disadvantage factors, access to violence against by those who got access to power, access to wealth, access to senior positions in public positions and bureaucracy
Through the breakdown of this definition we will find out on what basis Beja people are marginalized.
The unity of Sudan demands the participation of all the ethnic groups in power, and demands from the ruling minority to step down peacefully for the sake of the country and its voluntary unity. When the Beja organised a peaceful rally to demand their rights, the regime's forces opened fire on them This happened in Port Sudan on 29th January 2005, when 29 people were killed, 40 injured and 169 arrested. The excuse for killing them was that they were intending to set fire to the oil tanks, which were 20 km away. Oil exports from Beja port of Bashayer have brought a lot of problems to the Beja, in addition to displacing them and polluting their environment and now oil is giving the NIF government a false reason for the mass killings of the Beja. Oil exports should be banned immediately. In 17th of April 2005 Khalid Mohamed Nour Okod a student in Al Nielain University was killed by the security forces in a peaceful rally.
The Beja people, with their unique lifestyle, were able to survive on their meager resources for more than 5000 years of written history. They were able to cope with the harsh climate and arid land (but rich with minerals from inside). But since the invasion of foreign rule - and then the what are called national governments, particularly the rule of the NIF fanatical regime, and implementation of new methods of economy and planning - the Beja have become vulnerable to extinction, and whole tribes have vanished.
Poverty among Beja
Among the sixteen states in Northern Sudan, Kassala and Red Sea states come at the top of the three poor states. Indicators of poverty can be seen in the following aspects:
Feature Eastern Sudan Northern Sudan
Rate of population growth 0.3 3.1
Per capita income 271 326
Weight of infants less that 2.5 kg at labour 20.4%
Infants death for every 1000 (in first year) 150 68
Children with Hb<12 gm/mi 89.1 % ND
Nutrition deficit among children 26%
Severe nutrition deficit 16 %
Reported anaemia cases among maternity women 70.9 % 57.4%
Mothers death 3000 for every 100000 case of maternity
Dehydration among children less than 5 years 30%
Deficit of nutrition among adults 9%
Nutrition anaemia 33%
Persons per health centres 130955 39823
Unemployment 27 15
It is noticeable that poverty does not exist just because of that the land is arid and the environmental degradation but as Abdel Ati states urbanisation, market relations, state policy played a great role in spreading poverty among the Beja.
The beja people now living under miserable health condition because of the TB which spread among 65% of the population. Even children have been affected despite the government advocacy that the vaccination have been provided to children.
According to Zkat (Islamic Tax) Department poverty among Beja is very high for example in the Red Sea states main towns it comes
Port sudan 83%
While in Kassala their percentage is 82 and in Gadaref it is 77%
Many reasons led to poverty among Beja, some of them are
1 Distribution of fertilised land to the riverian and those who relate to the ruling class
2 Evacuation of the Beja agriculture projects
3 The refusal to confess that there is a starvation and subsequently call the international communities to assist in providing food
4 Spoliation and/ or Selling of the few relief that come from international communities to aid Beja by the ruling class and their favourites .
5 Many of the Beja were working as labour in the harbour but due to advance technology and mechanisation, they were dismissed. The government although knew that the result of its decision means losing jobs and access to living needs but it intentionally did not want to provide Beja with training and skills needed to adopt the new technology.
6 The government encouraged other groups to come in replace the Beja in labour market as it knows very well the inability of Beja to compete with those who are provided with the talents and skills as well as education.
Because of the previous states problems and situation, the Beja Congress emerged and started its work by addressing Beja problem at the national regional and international levels. As the government of Sudan has no interest to improve Beja life through development projects as well as considering indigenous groups have a right in sharing power and wealth.
The Beja were able to survive for more than 5000 years in their arid area through their unique lifestyle adapted to cope with the harsh environment.
The Beja depend for their living on husbandry/ pastrol. As nomadic people they used to graze their animals moving in a vast area. There is also small scale planting of maize for family consumption. Seventy percent of the peoples’ and animals’ energy is wasted in getting water, as water is a major problem in the country and cities.
1. Grazing lands were large enough to feed their animals and there were no famines, which started after the implementation of a new economy which made them poor, destroyed the countryside, killed the animals and forced shepherds to move to live in city's suburbs and to seek jobs.
2 The government used the land laws of 1925 and 1971 to confiscate the grazing lands of the Beja for the sake of the mechanized and irrigated agricultural schemes of the non-Beja. The animals were confined to small areas and the majority died. Instead of being landlords, the shepherds became hired casual temporary workers in these agricultural schemes, without any social or health security, living in miserable conditions. They left their families and children in their villages in poverty as they could not afford to bring them to live in the cities or agricultural schemes. Social problems intensified and families were destroyed due to the separation from the fathers who were working in the cities or agricultural schemes.
3 The governments, particularly the NIF government, used the two land laws (1925 and 1971) to confiscate Beja shepherds grazing lands for mechanized and irrigated agricultural schemes which belong to non-Beja, and the Beja became gypsies in the cities. And as they are uneducated and have neither skills nor influence, they failed to get jobs and lived in poverty, which led to the spread of malnutrition-related diseases and tuberculosis.
4 Agricultural schemes’ owners exploited the Beja shepherds and bought their animals at a cheap prices, fed them on crop leftovers and made enormous profits. The Beja had no wells and could not provide water for their animals so they sold them cheaply to the scheme owners who have wells in their schemes.
5 The NIF government’s policy is to force the Beja shepherds to sell their animals as they did not find grazing land for them. They are bereft of development, education or rehabilitation, raise animals in the cheapest possible way and enable the government to make massive profits in hard currency when exporting the animal resources. Animal resources are one of the major resources of foreign currency for the NIF government (monopolized by an Arab prince who has connections with NIF government ministers).
1 The Beja people grow maize on a small scale for family consumption for meals beside milk and meat. This traditional agriculture takes place in seasonal streams, and only 30% of the potential area is used although there is shortage of food and frequent famines, which resulted from the policies of the NIF government.
2 There were agricultural schemes in the Beja region in 1843 when Mumtaz Pasha, the Egyptian ruler of eastern Sudan introduced cotton plantations in the Baraka Delta in Tokar. The British rule in Sudan first introduced it in the Algash Delta in Kassala in 1925.
3 These two schemes, in addition to the Khasm Algirba and Alrahad schemes confiscated Beja grazing lands, cut down the forests and destroyed the environment and Beja sources of living on husbandry. In Algash, the British brought outsiders and gave them Beja lands. For many reasons, (including the growth of wild acacia trees) the area of cultivation in Braka shrunk from 600,000 hectares to just 60,000, and in Algash from 450,000 to just 50,000.
4 During the time of the NIF regime, the government sold the fertile land of Algash and west Butana to foreign investors, leaving the arid lands for the Beja people.
5 In 1945, the mechanized agricultural schemes started in Gadamblia in Al-Gadarif. It occupied massive areas, which used to be grazing land for the Beja shepherds. Due to nepotism, all the schemes were owned by people from the north. And due to corruption the schemes expanded illegally outside the planned areas. Incorrect methods were implemented in agriculture such as shallow ploughing which caused the soil to lose its fertility and texture. Cutting down forests led to the erosion of the soil. Also, pests spread in the region and the production rate for the area as a whole dropped enormously and cultivation in Gadarif became impossible. Most of the farmers were bankrupt and many were sent to prison. These schemes reduced Beja grazing land.
6 In the sixties a new scheme was established in Khashm Algirba and a dam was built on the Atbara River for the Nubians who were displaced from Old Halfa. The dam affected the Beja who used to cultivate and graze their animals on lands on the Atbara River. Entire villages disappeared due to this dam.
7 Al-Rahad agricultural scheme confiscated massive Beja lands.
8 The hazardous effects of these agricultural schemes were enormous, leaving the Beja without a means of livelihood, as seen in the decline of animal husbandry.
National schemes in the Beja region belong to the central government (to which all the revenue goes) and the aim from these schemes is not the development of the country but to obtain commissions from them for the GOVT. officials as they are all infeasible.
1 Highways, pipelines, ports, and factories.
2 There are benefits for the centre from these projects which cause serious harm to the Beja region and people. Highways increased the isolation of the remote small villages as it they do not pass by them, reduced the costs of transporting wood from Beja forests to distant areas, and made loggers penetrate deep into the Beja region. While constructing roads and pipelines, workers cut trees and poured oil into the soil, damaging the environment. Many forests vanished, routes of the nomadic husbandry Beja and their seasonal streams were blocked.
3 Building ports has displaced the Beja without fair compensation. Harbors with their improper warehouses of goods and intoxication brought new diseases to the people. The oil exporting port (Bashayer) had displaced the Beja people and devastated the environment. From oil revenue weapons have been purchased to kill Sudanese people e.g. in Darfur and Eastern Sudan. Economic sanctions should be imposed on Sudanese oil exports by the Security Council.
4 Other factories, refineries and silos were causing environmental damage.
5 As environmental protection measures are not considered in these national schemes the organic environment in which the Beja lived was destroyed.
6 In the Eriyab Goldmines, the government extracts gold whilst pouring cyanide into the soil with disastrous effects on the soil which caused numerous new diseases effecting both people agriculture and animals. This area, which produces 16 tones of gold per year, survives on aid from international relief organisations: there are no schools, hospitals or even an ambulance. Although the Beja, the owners of the gold have no schools, the sons of the gold mining company manager study in France on the account of the Beja gold. Gold mining consumes enormous quantities of water and exhausts the already rare water in the region. The mining operations destroyed the plantation terraces and the noise of explosives and machines traumatized the people and their animals. As gold mining has devastated the environment, its proceeds are used to buy arms to kill Sudanese people e.g. in Darfur and Eastern Sudan, economic sanctions should be imposed on Sudan gold exports by the Security Council.
7 These new schemes do not employ Beja people. At the same time, they bring their workforce from other regions to share jobs and scarce resources available, such as water and wood for energy, with the Beja. They also create congestion in the few available schools and hospitals even though new comers have these facilities in their own regions but have chosen to abandon them. Here, the original provinces of these migrants should contribute to the development budget of the Beja region or take their people back. Inevitably, these new schemes cause harm and danger to the Beja people and their region and changed the region’s demography. The poor Beja shepherds moved from their villages as they lost their animals, to the city suburbs in search of jobs. They live in miserable conditions leaving their families in their home villages. All this happened due to the flawed government policies in planning national schemes without social studies for the Beja and without dedicating a percentage of any new schemes to protect the environment and create social development programs for the Beja people who will be affected by these schemes.
8 Fertile lands were confiscated from the Beja and sold to foreign investors.
9 Workers were brought from the north in the early nineties to the harbor and they helped in the development of Sudan- now they are jobless due to the modernization of the handling facilities in the harbor and transferring the port customs to Khartoum.
1 Implementation of new policies in agriculture and economy has destroyed the environment in which the Beja people were surviving for thousands of years and they are only familiar with this environment.
2 Valuable forests were cut for the construction of highways and pipelines.
3 Grazing lands were changed to agricultural schemes although forests and animal resources are more valuable than crops.
4 In the Red Sea province the largest scheme for fighting locust is being implemented. Therefore, thousands of tones pest control chemicals were sprayed and due to the rain and seasonal streams went deep in the soil until the coastal area, once filed with forests and animals, became an arid wasteland.
5 Warehouses used to store factory goods do not use proper measurements for storing goods and chemical pesticides.
6 Ships visiting the ports dump their waste in the port.
7 Factories dump their waste in open areas.
8 Silos’ dust and operations generated asthma and breathing diseases.
9 The refineries and pipelines pollute the atmosphere.
10 The mass exodus of refugees with their animals overgrazed the area. They destroyed 400,000 acres of forests in the Kassala region for wood. The UN should compensate the Beja for this damage.
11 The NIF government is being paid to dump the hazardous wastages of some Western countries in the north of the Beja region.
12 Refugees have modern schools, hospitals etc built specially for them by the UN etc, while the Beja the original landlords of the region have none – this is a kind of discrimination and makes the Beja feel angry. The refugees receive cash payments in dollars from UN which has raised the costs of living and impoverished the Beja.
Since the introduction of the new methods of agriculture and economy without studying their negative consequences, the Beja region witnessed the start of starvation. It became frequent and in consecutive years without any preventative measures from the NIF government which denies famine exists and gives it other names.
Due to the civil war in the east, people were displaced from 20 villages in the Red Sea province and from 40 villages in Kassala province. Now they pay, if they have money for the services which they used to get free e.g. water, energy, accommodation, food and milk. At the same time these people have no skills to get jobs in towns. Now they are poor and vulnerable to diseases as they live in unhealthy conditions.
Public health in the Beja provinces is very poor. Diseases are spreading all over the region particularly among the Beja. The causes are mainly poverty which forces people to live in unhealthy conditions sapping their immunity to diseases, devastation of the environment, refugees and migrants from war zones in Sudan who bring new diseases like AIDS and kalazar. There is also a lack of preventative medicine.
1 There are not enough hospitals in the Beja region and the available ones are in the cities, and there are no medical clinics in the villages where the Beja live.
2 An area of 30,000 sq km from Port Sudan to Halayeb does not have a single hospital or even a well-equipped clinic.
3 New diseases spread due to the new schemes, oil export, gold mining and storing toxicities (pesticides) materials in bad conditions in the harbor.
4 Tuberculosis became a permanent guest within most Beja families although it is becoming a disease of the past throughout most of the world.
5 Pregnant women die before delivery due to malnutrition and the low rate of hemoglobin in their blood which is less than 40% .
6 Women also die during delivery, as there are no midwives.
7 There is no preventative medicine and nutritional education.
8 The Beja region has the highest rate of infant mortality in Sudan –new births have stopped completely!
9 Whole tribes have vanished, and the remainder risk extinction unless the international community intervenes. NGOs are responsible for new diseases among the Beja, due to the junk food which cause western diseases e.g. diabetes, blood pressure, heart problems etc and make the Beja future customers for western medical companies.
10 Attention should be paid to preventive medicine, improving the environment, nutrition, public health, health education and sanitation.
11 We in the Beja Congress have substantial evidence that the NIF government is systematically wiping out our people through famines, war, land mines, diseases and pouring cyanide on the soil and changing the demography of the region by giving non Beja land plots and money to reside in the region. The NIF government wants our region to be a natural extension for their people in the northern arid region.
Table shows the annual number of those who got Tuberculosis
Year 1999 number 2001 Number
Kassala 1456 Kassala 1416
Red Sea 1738 Red Sea 1578
Gadaref 1793 Gaderf 1044
Year 2000 Year 2002
Kassala 1279 Kassala 1572
Red Sea 1696 Res Sea 1747
Gaderf 1477 Gadaref 1079
Despite that it is the fifth decade of independence, educational opportunities for the Beja people remains very low. In fact, the educational facilities offered are not the same to all the states. If a breakdown is done on the schooling available to children in different states, which are considered to be less developed and marginalized by the state and policy makers, one finds that in the western states, the education percentage for boy is 58.2%; 36.2%; 41.52%; 53.14% respectively; 41.16%; 40.73%. While for girls, in the same states, it is 51.84%; 24.66%; 31.04%; 40.39%; 28.6%22.14%. this percentage includes the riverian children who live in those states due to that their father earning their living from working there either as salaried employees or as traders. A comparison of education opportunities by those who rules, the riverians and the marginalised beja shows the following
Basic education % %
Northern states Boys girls
River Nile state 83.74 80.79
Northern state 97.1 98.38
Beja land states (Eastern states)
Kassala state 33.09 30
Red Sea state 48.12 37.96
Algadaref state 51.34 42
Out of these figures provided by the Ministry of education, the 1993 population census shows that only 5.2% of these pupils are Beja. And that only 3.5% of those who completed their intermediate education are Beja. For secondary education the picture comes as follows
State boys % girls %
River Nile state 57 67.25
Northern state 61 73.25
Kassala state 11.6 12.21
Red sea state 25.7 25.7
Algadaref 14.3 11.9
The Beja students are 5% in the 3 Beja states and the rest are from other regions settled in the East.
From those who are enrolled for secondary schools only 2% are Beja according to 1993 population census.
We find the inequality also based on gender and ethnicity. In Northern Sudan, the percentages for secondary schooling are 61.13% and 57.83% for boys, while for girls the percentages are 66.94% and 62.54%. In reference to the indigenous ethnic groups as well as marginalized areas, percentages in western Sudan are 16.76%; 10.61%; 21.19%; 24.33%; 10.94% and 10.54% for boys; while for girls the figures are 18.03%; 15.74%; 18.33%; 19.17%; 9.34% and 6.70%.
Thus, inequality in educational opportunity does not only exist on gender-, but also on ethnic basis. These percentages clearly indicate that, in Sudan, without interference from policy makers introducing changes to inequality, it exists by gender as well as by ethnicity.
This practice of given preference to some regions and ethnic groups over others has not only led to social inequality, but is also reflected employment opportunities as well as the distribution of wealth among regions, which is considered to be among the northern regions of Sudan, and not only between the North and the South. As far as education leading to public positions, it is expected to have a low percentage on employees from disadvantaged groups.
Some of the problems of education in Beja regions are:
1 Teaching Beja in the Arabic language is a big mistake as they are not Arabs and it is not their mothers tongue and when they speak in Arabic they pronounce it wrongly. They are taught English and French but not their own language. That is why Beja children hate going to school.
2 There are no schools in the villages or countryside, and there are no boarding facilities in the schools that are away from the villages.
3 Only 5% of the children in the primary schools in the Beja region, are Beja and this rate reduces at the higher education levels.
4 Poverty stops children from going to school, as they have no money for uniforms, food or transportation.
5 As the Beja are pastoral people they depend on children to look after their animals moving from one place to the other looking for grazing lands.
6 The spread of the population in the vast area means the schools too far from children’s villages and there are no boarding houses in the schools.
7 Opening schools is concentrated in the cities ignoring villages.
8 During the current NIF rule the situation became worse. The NIF party made education a monopoly for its supporters, by implementing high fees on education, and no one can afford it except the NIF party members as all the money is in the pockets. In the last 16 years no one from outside their party obtained a PhD degree, not even a master's degree - they were all awarded to NIF supporters who were not suitably qualified. This is their plan to continue in power by occupying the senior jobs even when they are no longer ruling. We are proceeding in opening a university for the marginalized people in the Beja liberated area. In addition, we are going to establish a tribunal to sue the war criminals who are part of the NIF regime and violated human rights in the whole country.
9 The NIF government opened Islamic universities and schools for African Muslims mainly to recruit student mercenaries to what is called the Islamic Brigade to fight the Beja Congress. These are not educational institutes, but training camps for Islamic terrorists under the cover of education.
10 Special schools with boarding houses should be built for Beja boys and girls in the villages where the Beja live, where they can study in their own languages.
Red Sea Province Independent Area
In March 1997, NDA forces were able to free 20 villages in the Red Sea Province from the NIF government located between the village of Marafeet in the north to Qarura in the south, near the Eritrean borders. The NIF govt imposed a siege on this area and banned the transfer of food, medicine etc General Abdul Rahim Hussein, the interior minister, led an air bombardment campaign against this area from Port Sudan airport. He ordered the pilots to bombard and shell the 20 villages with their inhabitants and animals. Due to this and other military operations lead by NIF government, 450 people were killed. Another 2500 people were killed because of the ban on food and medicine; the majority of the victims were children, women and elderly people. Only Baroness Cox from CS, who visited the area, and helped the people with medical supplies, spoke about this problem.
Having the Congress as a political power that is claiming for Beja rights upset the ruling group. As a reaction against the political problem, the government decided to enforce Beja to leave their villages to remote areas at the edge of the towns or to the desert. This came through destroying houses, schools and slaughtering of animals to feed the government army. Within this aggressive policy the Beja left their area and wealth and came to be the poor of the towns. According to Oxfam the destruction on some of the Red Sea State villages came as follows
Village % of destruction
Marafit 78-82 %
Agig (one of the very old port) 100% (people are forced by the government to move to Port Sudan)
The destruction affected 20 villages in the Red Sea State and led to the close of 37 schools. In Kassala State, 40 villages have been destroyed by the army and 36 schools were closed. The inhabitants of these villages spread everywhere in particular to remote areas. However, the war impact did not only affect houses and other services facilities such as schools but also affected the means of living. As the inhabitants of those areas, lost their husbandry and grazing lands and in respect their animals. Continuing in its aggressive policy, the government planted all the ways and around those villages by landmines which lead to death of both people and animals.
Being displaced means poverty as the tools for obtaining basic needs came to be very difficult in particular when the ruling class is oppressive one as the case in Sudan. Losing their land, animals and tools for farming led to spread of poverty and diseases related to it. Tuberculosis is now everywhere in the Eastern Sudan. The following table shows the annual number of those who have diagnosed with tuberculosis.
Despite this high figures which show to how far Beja have affected by war and that poverty spread in areas which previously were known as planting areas. But because of the government policy to evacuate villages through using different inhuman methods the people left their areas. The government failed totally to facilitate the displaced people by any of the facilities needed. No schooling for the children, no health care centres no income generating projects nothing that assure that individual should exist and live. Moreover, because the Beja displacement campus came out of the reach of foreign diplomats and out of reach of mass media and information methods, then the Beja present situation has not been addressed as a problem that needs to be solved within the peace building process that is taking place this days. The Beja crises especially of the displaced that were affected by the existing civil war should be dealt with carefully. The national and international NGOs should participate actively in this incident. Moreover, civil society is also expected to play a significant role if peace and justice is really part of the Sudanese communities' interest. And if they really want to build a nation without marginalising indigenous groups.
The Independent Area In Kassalla Province
This is the land that was liberated by the NDA forces piece by piece from the NIF Govt. It is in the border near Eritrea. It is called now Hamashkoreb province, a no man’s land, although it is ruled by the opposition, after the NIF government lifted its hands from it. The NIF Govt. is happy to stop providing this area with facilities and services. It is banning passing of food supplies, medicines, educational materials etc from Sudan to this area, as it is fighting the opposition through starvation. The NIF fighters directed by Ali Osman, the first vice president bombarded this area in 2001. Only two NGOs, both based in Eritrea, are able to access the 15,000 sq km area at the moment, one of which is the IRC. The organization estimates the Beja population in the area to be 160,000 people. This area ten years back was full of forests and trees, now it became an arid area due to the presence of many troops , particularly, SPLA/SPLM which has got thousands of fighters here, and the soldiers cut the trees for building huts, energy or selling it for cash.
Hamashkoreb province consists of 65 villages with a population of 160,000 people. The rate of infant deaths is very high. People cure whooping cough by crow soup or donkey urine, in the third millennium! Pregnant women die during pregnancy or during delivery due to under nourishment and low hemoglobin in the blood which is usually less than 40%. Children and pregnant women need vitamins and healthy nutrition. There is a shortage of food and medicines, doctors, midwives or even nurses and there are no services units. Two NGO’s provide the people with minimal assistance. There are no schools, hospitals or means of production. People live in misery, illiteracy, and disease in a land full of landmines. This area needs urgent help from the international community as the mortality among pregnant women and children is enormous. The NIF govt. should allow the passage of medicine, food and other materials to this area. We recommend opening clinics in the villages with male and female doctors; concentration on preventive medicine; improving the environment; building proper sanitation facilities; promoting health education by recruiting female dieticians and training midwives.
The federal rule that is implemented now is for jobseekers for some of the Beja who support NIF for their personal interests. 80% of the budget goes to chapter one, salaries for employees. The provincial governments have no power to take any action as they receive their instructions from the central government. Only 2% of the budget is allocated for public health, education and social development. The revenue of the Beja region is national and the problems are local. All the revenue of the region goes to the centre and the north, even the income coming from local hospital visitors tickets. The budget of the 3 Beja provinces with a population of 6.5 million people is less than half of the budget of the two northern provinces whose population is less than one million. This ratio is also implemented in the number of schools, hospitals and medical supplies. All the development is directed towards the northern provinces and the centre and the war which is taking place in the east and the west. The Beja region took the largest burden of the civil war when the SPLA moved its operations to the east within NDA, which scared the NIF government and forced it to negotiate. The NIF government planted landmines to prevent opposition attacks from the east and 250,000 Beja people were forced to desert 40 villages in Kassala province and 80.000 from 20 villages in the Red Sea province. In April 1997 Abdul Rahim Hussein, interior minister directed the army to bombard the 20 villages in south Tokar, in the Red Sea province, which resulted in the killing of 450 Beja women children and elderly people.
The NIF government played a major role in displacing these people through different means and they are now living in the city suburbs in poverty, paying for what they used to get free in their original villages: housing, water, wood for energy, milk and food. Many lives were lost because of the NIF government’s landmines and the people lost their farms, animals, jobs and means of living as well as schools, hospitals and other facilities. In addition to this, in the liberated area, the environment is devastated due to the absence of law and SPLA soldiers taking advantage of this vacuum, cutting green trees and selling them for cash income as wood for energy.
Mass Exodus from the South and West
Due to the civil war quarter of a million from the south moved to the Beja region and the same number from the Nuba mountains and the west. People moved from the north without war to the Beja region. This has created congestion in the facilities, exhausted our natural resources and the few casual jobs available. The original provinces of these people should contribute to services and development in the Beja region.
As the Beja are uneducated and have no skills the majority work in casual jobs, if they are lucky, without any social or health security. The NIF government issued secret instructions to ban recruiting them into the army, police, foreign ministry etc. Due to the nepotism of the northerners the Beja cannot find jobs. All these problems are the result of banning the Beja from a fair share in power so they can defend the interests of their people’s genuine rights. Another problem is the absence of the rule of law in Sudan. Even the constitution, which was promulgated by the NIF government, is not implemented. It is just for political consumption and to show to foreign delegates and human rights groups. What is the use of the constitution if the Beja are banned from registering a political party to defend their rights? The Beja are persecuted they have a political party or organise a public meeting or a peaceful rally they can’t even register an NGO to help their people. The NIF government has transferred the port’s customs from Port Sudan to Khartoum rendering thousands of people jobless to give employment to it its supporters in Khartoum. The ports manager confiscated the whole coastal area from Port Sudan to Suakin. Aid which was sent by international NGO’s to the Kassala people after their city was flooded was stolen by the government supporters. Modernizing work in the harbor made thousands of Beja and other ethnic group jobless without any compensation or alternative mean as they used to work there as casual workers without any social or medical security. The Board f Standard And Specifications recruited 160 girls from Khartoum to work in its office in Port Sudan
As long as we, the Beja people, continue to be excluded from power our problems will continue. As the Beja represent the largest ethnical group in Sudan, we demand a share in power according to our percentage. Sudan must be divided into five regions, where a group of five representatives for these regions should form the presidential council which rules the country.
In February 2005, General Abdul Rahim Hussein spoke on Alarabia TV encouraging the security forces to kill Beja people in Port Sudan. He should be taken to the war crimes court for ethnic cleansing and mass killing. We are requesting appointing an international commission of inquiry to investigate in Port Sudan massacre similar to the UN Security council resolution which appointed one to investigate on the death of late Mr. Rafique Al Hariri x president of Lebanon. The law of UN under Mr. Annan administration states that killing of one Lebanese is a crime and killing 29 of the Beja is statistic (We are waiting for the response of western governments, international organisations, NGO’s and UN organisations to this request). The UN did not ask the NIF to open safe routes to pass food and medicine to these people, as it did in the south and west. The inhabitants of this area were forced to leave and move to Tokar and then to Port Sudan to suffer and live a life of poverty and misery.
In addition to political activities, the Beja are trying to ensure their rights are respected by putting international pressure on the NIF government through support from western countries, governments human rights organisations and the UN. But as some of the western countries have mutual interests with the NIF government they defend its crimes. The UN did not help the Beja, yet its senior officials visited and helped Darfur for local consumption as the international media is focusing on Darfur and members of UN agencies were keen to secure their jobs. The only UN staff member who approached us was Dr Domenico Polloni and UN special envoy Pronk has been to Asmara and Kassala recently and has met with representatives of Eastern Sudan.
Although the Bush administration has mutual interests with the NIF govt. it faces opposition from American activists to condemn its violations. The Beja did not find any western country to support them in their just struggle, but as Western societies are open societies the Beja will address them explaining their problems: we are sure that they will support us in putting international pressure on the NIF government to stop its human rights violations. Western democratic regimes should respect themselves, proof their credibility and stop supporting a dictatorship in Sudan while they implement democracy in their own countries.
The UN And Its Role
1 – The UN has built camps in Beja lands for Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees.
2- These refugees came in a mass exodus with their animals, they cut the trees and forests changing the region to an arid area. The UN must compensate the Beja for the devastation of 400,000 acres of forests in Kassala province, and should replace the trees which were cut to preserve the environment. The FAO should help in this.
3- The UN have established modern schools, hospitals and other facilities for refugees in the Beja area, but the Beja have not benefited from these indicating there is discrimination on the part of the UN. Such practices have generated hatred among the Beja, towards the refugees and the UN. The refugees are filling the few schools, hospitals and vacant jobs. The UN should review this situation and solve the problems.
4- The refugees have brought many diseases e.g. TB, aids and malaria which have spread among the Beja people. The WHO has to intervene to protect the Beja from these diseases.
5-The UN provides refugees with cash support in US Dollars. This has increased inflation and raised the standard of living in the Beja region. The prices of commodities and services have increased, rents went up, while the Beja income stayed the same, so their purchasing power shrunk and their poverty increased.
6- UNESCO should help the Beja to preserve and develop their language, the syllabus which they have set for teaching in their own language and culture through their NGO.
8 UNICEF should help reduce the death toll and disease among Beja infants and pregnant women.
9 Female circumcision is a bad unhealthy habit, and needs efforts to be stopped. Health and nutrition should be promoted through education and training midwives.
10 The UN should promote preventive medicine and build health and nutrition centres in Beja villages.
11 The UN and NGOs should help in building proper toilets in Beja areas in towns and in villages to protect them from diseases and to preserve the environment.
12 There is great need for opening training and vocational centres for the Beja. This should be implemented in Islamic schools where students study Koran only, and when they finish their course, can’t find jobs. Training courses should be added to the programme of Koranic studies and students can leave with two certificates: a vocational certificate and a religious studies certificate. Environment preservation should be taught to them to help in keeping a healthy environment.
13 UNESCO should eliminate illiteracy among the Beja particularly among women, where the rate of single parents has increased drastically due to the civil war and displacement. Here also women should learn skills or engage in projects from which they can gain an income. They should also be protected by law from abuse and exploitation. Women can play a vital role in life, bringing up children, helping their society and protecting the environment.
14 As the Beja people are nomadic and depend on husbandry for their livelihood the UN should improve, protect and develop their animals and grazing lands, establish fully equipped veterinarian clinics and open mobile schools for their children.
15 Young educated Beja boys and girls should be educated and trained by the UN on developing their people and region, socially and economically and improve the environment and the public health.
Oslo Conference For Donors
In April a conference for 60 countries took place in Oslo attended by Mr. Annan, to raise fund for rehabilitation projects in the south in areas affected by the war. There was no mention of Eastern Sudan although SPLA/SPLM has used the Beja strategic position and natural resources to enforce the NIF regime to accept sitting for peace negotiations. At the same time on the other hand there are 500,000 people displaced and 120 villages destroyed because of the civil war between the SPLA/SPLM and the govt. SPLA/SPLM is having 15000 soldiers in the Eastern Sudan fighting the govt . these troops represent one quarter of SPLA troops, which means one quarter of the damage of the war between the South and the North has fallen on the Eastern Sudan but although this the Oslo donors dedicated nothing for Beja. On the other hand the govt. has recruited some of the Beja tribes in the area to fight the opposition in addition to its militia and army. Both SPLA/SPLM and the govt. take the responsibility of this dilemma, planting land mines and devastating the environment of the Beja. A fair share of the donated budget should go for the rehabilitation of the affected area in Eastern Sudan
The Beja people of eastern Sudan have been the victims of the racist, discriminatory policies of the central government. They are being systematically displaced from their traditional grazing lands, their nomadic way of life is being eroded, they are forced to seek refuge in the shanty towns of large cities and no provision is being made for their educational, social, medical and cultural requirements. Many Beja tribes have disappeared due to marginalisation and neglect and, unless the international community acts quickly and responsibly the Sudanese government may well get away with the genocide of an entire people. As Beja have no fair share in power they will not have any development
The Beja Congress believes that to achieve peaceful coexistence in Sudan, the following political steps must be implemented:
1- The recognition of citizenry as the base of all political rights. Rights of equality and justice for all must be guaranteed by the constitution as well as by the practice of good governance. The constitution must clearly forbid any ethnic, religious, social, cultural or gender-based discrimination.
2- The adoption of a multiparty democracy as the system of government for the country. All laws contradictory to such practices must be nullified.
3- The adherence to international charters pertained to human rights, particularly the rights of women and children
4- The adoption of a confederal system of administration as a means of power devolution in the country. Such system must be based on the internationally acknowledged con federal systems in which true devolution of power from the center to the regions allows people to control their own life and decide on social, economic and political issues of their regions.
5- The official acknowledgement by the government of the historical injustice that has befallen the Beja from the central governments of the Sudan in the previous decades. A program of political and economic action aimed at alleviating the undue sufferings of the Beja people, and achieving fairness and justice must follow such acknowledgement.
6- The Beja Congress must be officially recognized as a political organization. To that effect, all laws and codes that hinder the right of minorities to express their political will through social and political organizations must be abolished.
Second: On the Reclamation of Political power by the Beja
The BC prospects for the ruling system in Sudan is to have the right of self-determination. If during a transitional period, Sudanese groups in particular, the riverian shows interest and assure they want to share power through justice and equal basis then we would like to propose a state consists of five main states, the South, North, Central, West and East. From these states a representative will form with others the head council of the State. The headperson will be in rotating basis among the different regions.
The Beja Congress believes that to enable the Beja to reclaim political power, and to practice their political rights, the following steps must be taken:
1 The rule must be based on the federal arrangements that the people of Sudan agree upon.
2 The unification of the three states of eastern Sudan must unified under one region (or state) so as to form the Beja Region.
3 The free political choice of governors and political officers by the Beja people must be guaranteed.
4 The establishment of (regional) legislative bodies capable of implementing laws that enhance social and political relations among the social entities of the region.
5 The introduction of improvement to the local administration system (al-Idara al-Ahliyya which have accumilated exeperience and proved its success, competence and low costs) so as to strengthen the government of the State and to help it in governance.
6 The relative and equal representation of the Beja in all Federal commissions and committees pertained to national issues, programs and activities (Army, Civil service, Police, judiciary, education etc)
For more details about Beja Please wrie to