Hundreds of Sudanese protested in the city of ad-Damir demanding the government do more to help villagers whose homes were flooded by an electricity-generating dam, witnesses said.
Witnesses said up to 1,200 protesters gathered outside a government office in ad-Damir, capital of River Nile state, to call on authorities to provide more assistance for people displaced by the Merowe dam.
“The people want the fulfillment of their rights,” the protesters chanted, a variation of a slogan often used by demonstrators in “Arab Spring” countries, Reuters reports.
The protesters also called for the resignation of the electricity and dams minister.
The $2 billion, Chinese-built Merowe dam was completed in 2009 with the aim of doubling Sudan’s electricity supply. The 1,250 megawatt project displaced tens of thousands of people and has long been a source of controversy.
Villagers have clashed with authorities over the dam in the past, though most have now accepted government compensation and moved.
Ezzedin Jafar, a spokesman for displaced people in the Manaseer area, 350 km (220 miles) north of Khartoum, said demonstrators had started a sit-in and would move the protest to Khartoum if their demands were not answered.
“We’ve tried to meet with officials in the federal government and the state government, but they’ve refused to respond to us,” he said by telephone.
Jafar said about 12,000 people in the area were still affected by the dam, about 9,000 of them living in the open. Police and local government officials were not immediately available to comment.
Sudan has been battling an economic crisis including rising inflation since South Sudan declared independence in July, taking about 75 percent of former Sudan’s oil output with it.
The two countries have yet to agree on how much South Sudan should pay to send its crude through pipelines that run north through Sudan to a Red Sea port.
Sudan’s government is also fighting several armed insurgencies in its South Kordofan and Blue Nile border states and its western Darfur region.
Sudan’s capital Khartoum and other cities have seen small protests this year over rising food prices. Many demonstrators say they have been inspired by “Arab Spring” uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia but have been quickly dispersed by security forces.