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Gezira scheme farmers launch election boycott campaign

March 12, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – The Farmers’ Alliance of Gezira and Managel announced that they plan to initiate a campaign to boycott April’s general elections in coordination with opposition forces that signed “Sudan Call” accord in Addis Ababa late last year.

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A Sudanese farmer stands in a field of sorghum in Gezira state (AFP)

A joint statement issued by two sides and other NGO’s following a meeting stated that they will begin to organize field trips to villages and offices of Gezira agricultural scheme that will see them hang posters and address people in public markets,

They will also use cars fitted with loudspeakers that will tour remote areas urging people to boycott elections.

The statement described the elections as a "farce that will prolong the life of the regime and bestow false legitimacy on it".

Gezira state residents were infuriated by leaked remarks of President Omer Hassan al-Bashir last November in which he described Gezira farmers as communists who always want the government to fund them without having to repay back the debt.

The Gezira project, which includes over 2 million feddans of land by the Blue and White Nile rivers and employs 130,000 farmers, traces its origins to British colonial times. It initially developed land for cotton through a system of canals.

There has long been a struggle between farmers and the government over ownership of the land as Khartoum wants to ensure it has control over the project in order to make it subject to its economic and agricultural policies.

The Sudanese government has long pledged to bring about a turnaround in the project in order to make it the breadbasket of the country and beyond.

But farmers say none of that has come to pass due to spiraling production costs which have eaten into their margins, with many were jailed over outstanding debt.

Observers say that the eroding value of the Sudanese pound has also raised the cost of imports such as fertilizers and other materials.

The deterioration of the agricultural project was coupled by overall economic plunge particularly in manufacturing and commercial traffic in the state which is home to some 3.7 million people.

The restructuring of the scheme and the liquidation of its associated industries and businesses led to the displacement of thousands of workers, after application of the 2005 Gezira Scheme Act.

(ST)