Monday, October 12, 2009

The Council of Ministers’ Timetable for 2010

On October 10th, 2009, the State Minister in the Ministry of the Council of Ministers, Kamal Abd Al-Latif Abd Al-Rahim, addressed a meeting held with journalists and editors-in-in-Chief of almost all the daily newspapers in the country. This meeting came as one amongst many meetings, which have been organized annually by the same Ministry. The main objective of this meeting was to discuss a proposal prepared by the General Administration of the Council of Ministers for the timetable of the Council of Ministers and Ministerial Sectors planned for discussion by the Council of Ministers for the year 2010.

The timetable, as per this author, tackled many important issues concerning the various projects included in the quarter century national strategic planning. This author has noted that the project for supplying many regions with fresh water from the three main rivers of the White Nile, Blue Nile, Nahar Atbara, and certainly the Nile is missing. This would be the main subject to be discussed in this article, in addition to other issues that were already discussed but with few additions to widen their scopes.

Before beginning this article, this author would like to extend his sincere congratulations to H.E. the President of the Republic, Field Marshal Omar Hasan Ahmad Al-Bashir, for lifting up the security monitoring on the press in the country. More thanks are also here extended to the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers, its State Minister and the Undersecretary for designing the programme in which the Council of Ministers consults with journalists and editors-in-chief of all the newspapers in the country on annual basis.

This author, however, would like to note that for future effective participation of the journalists and editors-in-chief of the newspapers; the Council of Ministers needs to send future timetables before the meeting convenes so that those participating in the meeting could contribute very positively.

This article is has been prepared and sent to H.E. the Minister of State in the Council of Ministers as part of the author’s contribution to the problems affecting the country. The reason to publish came with permission from H.E. the State Minister for Ministry of the Council of Ministers and the aim is to share it with journalists and editors-in-chief colleagues who attended the above-mentioned meeting.

Water Project in the Country

This author begs for forgiveness in case he did not see the project for fresh drinking water supply to those parts of the country that are in dire need of water. While visiting some parts of North and North-Eastern Sudan, this author realized that some of our countrymen and women living in those parts of North and North-Eastern Sudan faced serious problems of fresh drinking water shortages. This problem is also faced by our country men and women living in North-West, some parts of South-West and areas in South-East of the country.

The question that would quickly come to mind is that is there any plans at all to extend water from the various rivers in the country to the parts of the country that has no access to fresh drinking water?

Water is one of the biggest resources that accelerate development? Availability of fresh water in various parts of the country would encourage the populations in those areas to engage in small-scale agriculture and, coupled up with the strategic agricultural projects in the country, the country as well as small-scale farmers in the areas mentioned would benefit from exports of the agricultural products and safe the lives of those who would have otherwise perished from thirst and/or lack of food. Fresh drinking water stops the spread of diseases that are acquired from dirty water catchments for consumed by the people in the areas mention and thus safe generations whose services as human resources would badly be need in the future of this country by the current and future governments.

This author, however, is aware that discussing supplies of fresh water from the rivers available in this country is connected with the River Nile Basin Agreements (RNBA) signed in 1929. In these agreements, some of which were signed even before Sudan got its independence from the British, each of the countries in the RNBA is given a percentage in Cubic Metres (CMs). According to the information available for the distribution of water resources in the RNBA (Sudan and Egypt are drawn as examples), Egypt has been given 55.5 Billion CMs while the Sudan is given 18.5 Billion CMs, for more information see (

Should the failure to supply our country men and women in the areas mentioned above be based on these percentages, then the Council of Ministers needs to look at this as an important issue for discussion. In the discussion of this important issue, the Council of Ministers needs to review the RNBA with a view to requesting more CMs to be utilized by the Sudanese who are in dire need of fresh water for drinking and agriculture.

Why should the Sudanese people be subjected to an agreement that is not even strict in the use of water already allocated in CMs by the member countries? For example, “Egypt's water resources stood at 64 Billion CMs in 2006, of which the RNBA provided 55.5 Billion CMs, or 86.7 percent”, see ( Egypt has to be made to understand the review of the RNBA is important. The increase in its use of the Nile waters by 9.5 Billion CMs perhaps is necessitated by the increase in its population. The Sudan and Egypt had smaller populations at the time of signing the RNBA and thus both deserve increase in their quotas according to their populations’ need.

“Some Egyptian experts accuse the United States (US) and Israel of raising differences among Nile Basin countries to affect Egypt and Sudan, warning that Nile Basin countries may fight for water in the future”, (Zinhua, July 31st, 2009). While the Sudan as a country has its objective reasons to differ with the US and Israel, the Council of Ministers needs to know that the lives of big number of our countrymen and women who are in dire need of water are at stake. Thus, the only solution to avert war in the future is definitely a renegotiation on the redistribution of the Nile water percentages to the member countries. Renegotiation of the percentages of the River Nile should be one of the most important items to be included in the Council of Ministers’ timetable for the year 2010.

Civil Defence

The Annual crisis of unnecessary floods in Khartoum and other parts of the country should be an important item in the timetable of the Council of Ministers for the year 2010. It is shameful for the country to depend on crisis management of the floods in every rainy season. There has to be a well-studies project within the timetable of the Council of Ministers to identify areas within the national capital, Khartoum and other areas, in addition to roads in the country where channels are not just dug and left but rather scientifically constructed and properly directed to the rivers available.

The annual floods, especially those that affect the national capital, Khartoum, do affect the national treasury so dearly. With floods in the national capital every year, roads become impassable thereby affecting movements of the country’s public and private sector officials; erode roads which will need reconstruction and children are made to acquire water-borne diseases and the results are not good for the country’s national strategic planning. The national strategic planning, one would guess, takes into consideration the need to invest on younger generations that may be eroded along with the roads of the national capital. Eroded roads within the national capital would mean more spending and more spending would seriously affect the national strategic planning whose success depends on the correct use of money in the country.

National Forests – The Future Plan

Perhaps it is good to know that there is a concern to preserve national forests. However, the question that would impose itself is: are there future plans to create more forests, instead of just preserving the current? There is a need for a serious programme for forestation of the northern deserts to help increase the percentage of rainfalls in the Northern part of the country and stop deforestation. The Northern, Southern, Western and Eastern parts of the national capital need forestation to improve life within the national capital. Forests are known to be windbreakers and play greater roles in shielding off the heavy sandstorms that are faced by the national capital on annual basis and, of course, the production of rains. Thus, the Council of Ministers’ timetable needs to include a detailed and well-studied project for forestation in the country and at the same time lay down strict regulations on the unnecessary felling of trees in some parts of the country.

The Referendum in South Sudan – The On-going Arrangements

The issue of the referendum in South Sudan in 2011 as agreed upon by the negotiators in Naivasha in 2005 has appeared to have taken shape almost regarded as taboo. It is now more than four (4) years on into the interim period and the options of the referendum – unity and separation – are not discussed. There are those (mostly from Northern Sudan) who encourage discussion on the achievement of the unity during the referendum thus discouraging any discussion on separation. There are also those (mostly from South Sudan) who encourage discussion on the achievement of separation during the referendum thus discouraging any discussion on unity.

This is a very dangerous approach because the issues of unity and separation involve convictions. These convictions cannot come from nowhere but from serious national debate. The separatists should be given the opportunity to express their views on why they need separation. In the same understanding, the unionists should also have their opportunities to express their views. This could be done at the level of symposia, seminars and workshops in which scientific papers ought to be presented. It is only in this way that the Sudanese people can arrive at convictions and these convictions would help in tilting the public opinion in the North and the South on whether or not unity and/or separation are indeed in the interest of this country.

For example, and let this be taken hypothetically, by saying that unity is an important option in the referendum. What kind of unity could it be? Would the unity that has to be achieved during the referendum be based on the old unity, which was the cause for the civil war in the country?

It is true that Naivasha has addressed very many important issues in this country but there are other problems which Naivasha has also created. In the opinion of this author, segregation has increased in this country between the people of the South and those of the North. This segregation cannot be blamed on the people of the North or the South but rather on Naivasha.

Naivasha as mentioned above has created a clear-cut segregation in this country. There South Sudanese working in the North who are literally undermined. Others are belittled by some of their juniors in their work places. Some in other very specialized government institutions have not been given their rights as provided for by their institutions. There are also Northern Sudanese who in work in the South who have faced issues of undermining and segregation on various basis, be they clolour, religion or otherwise.

There are some Northern Sudanese within this country’s government institutions who literally think that the South has got more than its share from Sudan through Naivasha. They literally think that any South Sudanese living and working in the North is unfairly sharing what is supposed to be for the North. There is some rationale in this kind of thinking but it only adds to the whole complexity of the situation. Does the Sudan need all the tension created by Naivasha? The only way of coming out of this complex situation is dialogue on the very many issues that are the core to issues of unity and separation during the referendum.

The Agriculture Sector – The Jezira Scheme

How could the Sudanese be proud of saying this popular phrase: ‘We eat from what we cultivate”, when important agricultural schemes like the Al-Jezira Agricultural Scheme and Aweil Rice scheme – some of the biggest in the African continent at the time– die away? If the Sudanese have to eat from what they produce and help others eat from what they have produced, there should be a serious need for the Council of Ministers to add into its timetable the importance of assembling a team of agriculture experts, including those in the field of agricultural research to study the Jezira soil and other soils within the country with a view to creating long term planning that should take into consideration extensive agricultural production with surpluses that could be exported to other countries.

Industrial Sector

How could the Sudanese be proud of saying this other phrase: ‘We wear from what we manufacture’, when some of the heavy industries, especially in the South have no attention paid to? Mongala Sugar factory in South Sudan, Anzara textile industry in South Sudan, and Wau Beef factor have not received any attention from the government. The Council of Ministers needs to include in its discussion timetable for the year 2010 the importance of reactivating the above-mentioned industries and others that have not been mentioned in this article. The reactivation of the above-mentioned industries and other that are mentioned is important if the industrial sector has to succeed in its part of the comprehensive national strategic planning.

DDR – The Issues of Militia

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement’s Security Arrangements had clearly indicated that there should be no forces in between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA). On this basis came the decision in the Security Arrangements that both the SAF and SPLA absorb into their systems the militia within their sides. The absorption of those with the SAF was made but yet the SPLM continues – unabated – to accuse its partner, the NCP, of continuing to maintain some militia within the South.

On the issue of disarmament, there has been quite a problem with the process of disarmament in South Sudan. First, it should be recalled that there are some communities in the South that owned small arms, which they used to protect their belongings like livestock from other cattle rustlers within and without the country. This does not mean that these communities should not be disarmed. They should be disarmed but something ought to be done before they are disarmed. These communities need government security to protect them from cattle rustling incursions. Therefore, the Council of Ministers needs to include in its discussion timetable for the year 2010 the importance of providing security to the communities that suffers from cattle rustling incursion from within and without the country.

Finally: Review of Wages for Government Employees

The current government has been revisiting the wages of its employees and makes amends; only that this is done without taking into consideration the serious developments in the market. The market seems to be operating without safeguards from the government, which are aimed at benefiting the common Sudanese. For example, it is impossible to offer the government employees a 100 percent increase in wages without checking the market, which normally hikes the prices of essential commodities in the country – sometimes – by more than 50 percent. The Council of Ministers’ timetable needs to include a discussion on the need to control the market, especially when increasing its employees’ wages, to avoid a vicious cycle of wages and the purchasing power going up respectively.

The author is the editor-in-chief of the Armed Forces Newspaper. He can be reached on:

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