Sudan: Khartoum says Turkish ship to boost ‘security’

A Turkish military ship has been moored near Port Sudan for a three-day stay in the African country purportedly aimed at boosting “security and safety” in the Red Sea region, as Sudan has been the scene of months of protests against President Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year rule.

According to a statement released by the Sudanese military, the Turkish ship, Gojka Ada, arrived at the port, the capital city of Red Sea province, on Saturday morning. The stay will last until March 11.

“The visit reflects the cooperation between the two armed forces and is also part of a diplomatic initiative,” said Sudanese General Mousa Ahmed Mousa, adding, “It will also enhance the security and safety of the Red Sea.”

Relations between Ankara and Khartoum has witnessed a boost since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a visit to the African nation in late 2017 as part of a perceived plan to secure a strategic foothold in Africa.

The visit, which was the first by a Turkish president to the east African country, led to sealing a number of deals between the two sides.

At the time, the Turkish leader said Sudan had agreed to allow Turkey to restore the Red Sea port of Suakin Island.

Suakin, used to be considered the height of medieval luxury on the Red Sea, was Sudan’s major port when it was ruled by the Ottoman Empire, but fell into disuse over the last century following the construction of Port Sudan, 60 kilometers to the north.

Turkey to rebuild Sudan’s port, expand military ties

Sudan says Turkey is to rebuild a Sudanese ancient port on the Red Sea coast.

The deal aroused concern in Saudi Arabia, a neighbor situated across from the Red Sea in the east, and Egypt, a neighbor to the north. They fear that Turkey is attempting to extend influence in the region to their detriment.

In a bid to alleviate the concern, Erdogan stressed at the time that Ankara had no plan whatsoever to build a military base at Suakin. He emphasized that the renovated island would be used instead to attract Hajj-bound pilgrims to Suakin, in turn strengthening the region’s tourism.

Sudan is struggling with months of persisting protests. On December 17, an anti-government campaign erupted over price hikes and shortages of food and fuel. The demonstrations first erupted in the farming town of Atbara after cash-strapped Khartoum cut a vital subsidy on bread and tripled its prices.

The move infuriated people and triggered protests, which swiftly mushroomed into nationwide anti-government rallies, particularly in the capital and its twin city of Omdurman. That initial public display of anger quickly spiraled into calls for Bashir, who took power in 1989 through a military coup, to step down.

President Omar al-Bashir has prohibited unauthorized public rallies, and granted widespread new powers to security forces in a bid to quell street protests against his rule.

The country’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) has reportedly been carrying out a crackdown on protesters, opposition leaders, activists, and reporters in an attempt to prevent the spread of the rallies, which are viewed as the biggest threat to Bashir’s decades-long rule.

Official figures say 31 people, including some security agents, have lost their lives since the onset of the rallies. Some rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, say at least 51 people have died so far.

Bashir, however, has so far remained defiant, addressing loyalists at a number of rallies across the country and seeking support from regional allies.

The African nation has been suffering from a worsening economic crisis, including a serious shortage of foreign currency. The cost of some commodities, including medicines, has more than doubled and inflation has hit 70 percent. A growing lack of food and fuel has also been regularly reported across several cities, including Khartoum.

By Africafrique and agencies

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