Saudi Arabia would supply Sudan’s energy needs for five years on credit under an agreement being discussed by both governments, Sudan Oil Minister Abdulrahman Othman said on Monday.
Othman said the deal would provide about 1.8 million tonnes of oil a year to Sudan, which in recent months has been hit by a sharp foreign currency crisis and an acute fuel shortage that has forced people to queue at gas stations for hours.
Once an oil exporter, Sudan was forced to begin importing it after the south seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of the country’s oil output and its main source of foreign currency.
A source in the presidency’s office in Khartoum said the final agreement is expected to be signed within days.
Sudan’s foreign currency crunch arose from decades of U.S. sanctions that were lifted last year, but new sources of foreign currency have failed to materialize.
Khartoum has been expecting financial support from wealthy Gulf Arab allies but little has trickled into the sprawling country of 40 million people.
The potential oil deal comes after Sudan’s defense minister told parliament last week that the government was reconsidering its military participation in Yemen, where Sudan has sent at least 3,000 ground troops to support a Saudi-led coalition.
Saudi to Supply Oil to Sudan at Preferential Rate
Saudi Arabia will supply oil to Sudan for the next five years at preferential prices, disclosed a Sudanese minister on Monday.
Sudan’s oil minister Abdel Rahman Osman said according to the agreement which will be signed in the upcoming days Saudi Arabia will provide Sudan with 1.8 million tonnes of oil a year.
The deal aims to fill Sudan’s fuel consumption gap as the country has experienced an acute fuel shortage during the past weeks due to the lack of hard currency to buy oil from the international market.
The minister who just returned from Riyadh said the agreement will be signed after the completion of the procedures with the Saudi Development Bank which will guarantee the credit.
He just added that the procedures will take “several days” without further details.
The government has been under strong pressure from the opposition parties for its participation in the Saudi-led alliance which wages war against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Khartoum was criticised for the poor financial support provided by the oil-rich Gulf monarchies to the country despite its significant involvement in the Yemeni conflict.
The criticism prompted the Saudi ambassador in Khartoum to hold a press conference to say his country would sign a number of defense and economic cooperation agreements with Sudan very soon.
Drivers Queue Overnight for Fuel as Sudan Runs on Empty
The fuel crisis in Sudan continues to impact on everyday life across the country. In the capital Khartoum and elsewhere, drivers are forced to queue for fuel overnight. This calls into question repeated official statements that the shortage has been resolved.
In addition to Khartoum, various cities of Sudan are witnessing long lines of vehicles in front of fuel stations to get one gallon. Hundreds of vehicle owners spend the night on the seats of their vehicles in front of the fuel stations in Khartoum without obtaining any.
The crisis has forced tens of thousands of public and private transport users in the capital and the states to walk for long distances after failing to get a means of transport.
The overnight queues at filling stations have proved an opportunity for Khartoum’s entrepreneurial street vendors, who ply a steady trade catering for the hapless fuel-seakers.
On Wednesday, Sudan’s Oil Minister Saadeldin El Bushra said “the fuel problem is a funding problem”.
The minister refused to answer questions before Members of Parliament regarding the funding by the Central Bank of Sudan to fill the fuel gap.
“I am talking about funding because I don’t want to join Ghandour,” he said, referring to Sudan’s former Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour who was dismissed by President Omar Al Bashir last month for criticising the financial situation of the country’s diplomatic corps.
Fighting for Water
The stoppage of water pumping engines for lack of fuel in parts of Kordofan have resulted in fights breaking out among the public as tempers flare to draw the little water that is available.
The locality of New Halfa in Kassala state instructed owners of vehicles to get a monthly card in order to get fuel from pumps.
A vehicle owner from New Halfa reported to Radio Dabanga overcrowding of the owners of vehicles in front of the locality building to get the monthly card for a fee of SDG 120 (*$4.26).
He said the vehicles are allowed to fill their tank once a week with the monthly card.
He explained that the traffic department requires the license of the vehicle to issue the card.
They said they have to pay thousands of Pounds to members of the regular forces to get the card through avoiding crowding and waiting for days.
He pointed to the accumulation of crops in the market of New Halfa because of the complete stop of the transportation vehicles due to the fuel crisis.
In the other states, the price of a gallon of diesel in the rural and villages of North and West Kordofan has amounted to SDG 500 (*$17.75), while the price of tanker of water capacity of 100 barrels has amounted SDG 10,000 ($355).
The price of a gallon of petrol in Nyala in South Darfur has amounted to SDG 175 ($6.22) and a barrel of water to SDG 40 ($1,42) in the districts of the city which are not connected to water networks.
Nyala is also suffering from a power outage where the electric supply is distribution one day north and a day south.
Traders in Nyala denounced the state government’s decision for each trader to pay SDG 1,600 ($57) as a contribution for the inter-school competition to be held in December.
The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) has forbidden newspapers in Sudan from publishing any material related to the fuel crisis.
The NISS ban includes writing about protests and demonstrations or “negatively writing about goods”.
In a directive to the editors of newspapers, the NISS called on them not to cover the crisis, but “to be satisfied with the official statements issued by the government on these topics”.