Since King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud agreed to fund the dam projects in early November last year, the Nubian people have pressured the government to break off the Sudanese-Saudi agreement. The Association of Nubians warned that the construction of the proposed dams will abolish more than 7,000 years of Nubian civilization, submerging some of the world’s largest remaining archaeological sites. International Rivers reported that the construction of the Kajbar Dam on the Nile’s third cataract would displace approximately 10,000 people and destroy an estimated 500 archaeological sites. Additionally, River Nile State committees submitted a memorandum to local authorities stating that the construction of the El Shereik Dam along the fifth cataract would lead to immense destabilization in the region.
The Merowe Dam, completed in 2009, doubled Sudan’s electricity generation, but displaced and impoverished more than 50,000 people from the Nile Valley. The civilians affected by the dam proposed resettlement along the banks of the new reservoir, but the Sudanese government denied this proposal and suppressed protest advocating for it. Two years earlier, in 2007, Sudanese security forces killed four and injured at least 20 people peacefully protesting against the building of the Kajbar Dam, causing many to fear that dam projects could lead to widespread conflict and instability.
On February 17, 2016, Freedom House released a statement supporting the dam protests, declaring, “The government of Sudan continues to forcibly suppress dissent and undermine citizens’ right to assemble. The beating and arrest of peaceful demonstrators protesting a project that would uproot thousands of Sudanese and destroy valuable heritage sites shows the government’s disregard for fundamental rights.”
The protesters demand that the Sudanese and Saudi governments recognize the immensely negative impact that these three dams will have on basic security, human rights, and the unique cultural history of the region.
Photo credit: Ben Rissler