Sudanese observe quiet Eid celebrations after crisis

Sudanese supporters of Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy head of the military council, during a rally in the East Nile province. (AP)
Updated 11 August 2019

Sudanese observe quiet Eid celebrations after crisis

  • Sudan is set to have civilian rule after months of bloody protests

KHARTOUM: As Muslims in Khartoum marked their first Eid Al-Adha feast without Omar Al-Bashir as ruler in three decades, the mood was upbeat on Sunday but the menu stayed frugal.

Months of bloody anti-regime protests created a historic opportunity for civilian rule in Sudan but also saw prices soar, putting a damper on celebrations.

In Khartoum markets, the price of a sheep — a must in the Feast of the Sacrifice which is considered the holiest day in the Islamic calendar — has doubled since last year.

“You used to be able to find a sheep for 3,500” Sudanese pounds ($60), said Mohamed Abdullahi, a farmer who lives on Tuti, a rural island wedged between the twin cities of Khartoum and Omdurman, where the Blue and White Nile meet.

This year he paid 8,000 pounds, an amount he could not really afford even after raising the selling price of the milk from the few cows he rears on a small plot by the riverbank.

“I have three children, I had to bring them something for the feast,” the greying 43-year-old said.

In Khartoum’s Bori neighborhood, considered one of the cradles of the protest movement that brought down Bashir earlier this year, an Eid market known for its low prices is witnessing record turnover.

“There’s a lack of cash in Sudan at the moment. Here we are using electronic payment cards a lot, to make it easier for the people,” said one of the traders, Maki Amir.

“Many people feel happy because of the revolution and the peace that was signed last week, that’s why they want a real Eid celebration,” he said.

Sudan’s economy was sent into a tailspin when the oil-rich south seceded in 2011 and the past eight months of turmoil — which initially erupted with protests over a tripling of bread prices — have taken a further toll.

As buyers swarmed the huddled sheep on the dusty open market ground and inspected the animals’ teeth, the haggling was sometimes acrimonious. Some men looking to buy a sheep to slaughter blamed traders for taking advantage of the power vacuum to raise their prices.

The traders retorted they were being taxed by the government more than ever before.

Since the last devaluation of the pound in October by the then Sudanese authorities, the currency has plunged by a further 70 percent against the dollar on the black market.

A deal was reached a week ago between the country’s generals and protest leaders to transition to civilian rule in just over three years.

The landmark constitutional agreement is to be signed at a ceremony on Aug. 17 but, even if its provisions are implemented, the country remains on the brink of economic collapse.

On the capital’s walls, some of the protest murals have already been painted over and its streets were largely empty, many residents having left town to celebrate Eid Al-Adha in their villages.

At the market in Bori, Amir Abdullah came to buy a goat for an expatriate friend who wants it donated to charity but he will not be able to afford one for himself this year.

He also said celebrating did not feel like a priority after so many protesters, an estimated 250, were killed in their efforts to take down the military regime.

“Eid is not the same for everybody. Now I’m still in mourning for those who lost their lives,” said Abdullah, sweat pearling on his forehead from the afternoon heat.

“Definitely, the situation is getting worse, there is no work, no income and no investment ... but we have to stay focused on achieving the goals of the revolution: Freedom, peace and justice.”


Israeli cabinet tightens coronavirus lockdown as infections climb

Updated 24 September 2020

Israeli cabinet tightens coronavirus lockdown as infections climb

  • Since the outbreak began, 1,316 people have died in Israel and some 200,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported
  • The current second wave of infections followed an easing in May of a lockdown imposed in March

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet decided on Thursday to tighten Israel's coronavirus lockdown after he voiced alarm that a surge in infections was pushing the nation to "the edge of the abyss".
Israel went back into lockdown, its second during the pandemic, on Sept. 18. But over the past week, the number of daily new cases has reached nearly 7,000 among a population of 9 million, severely straining the resources of some hospitals.
"We reached a decision to pull the handbrake," Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said on Israel Radio about the cabinet decision, without giving precise details of the restrictions.
Israel Radio and several Israeli news sites said the revised edicts, due to take effect on Friday pending parliamentary ratification, will allow fewer businesses to operate, and only in "essential" sectors such as finance, energy, health, technology, agriculture and food sales and production.
The current 1,000-metre (0.6-mile)- limit on travel from home, except for activities such as grocery and medicine shopping and commuting to work, will now also apply to attendance at street protests, the news reports said.
The revised edict was likely to put a damper on demonstrations outside Netanyahu's Jerusalem residence, where protesters, many of them from outside the city, have been calling for his resignation over alleged corruption.
He has denied charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a trial that resumes in January, and rejected allegations from protest activists that a tougher lockdown was essentially aimed at quashing the demonstrations against him.
"In the past two days, we heard from the experts that if we don't take immediate and difficult steps, we will reach the edge of the abyss," Netanyahu said in public remarks to the cabinet, which met for about eight hours.
Schools will remain closed, but the cabinet decided against shuttering synagogues on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, next week, media reported. The number of worshippers, however, will be limited.
Infection rates in close-quarter ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods and towns in Israel have been high, but religious parties in the coalition government had opposed shuttering synagogues.
Since the outbreak began, 1,316 people have died in Israel and some 200,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported.
The current second wave of infections followed an easing in May of a lockdown imposed in March.