Street Vendors in Sudan Forced Into Unpaid Labour
Hussein Adam would have never imagined as he left his house in the outskirts of Khartoum, going on about his day to work in the streets of the city, that he would not return home to his family for over a month.
Adam, a young man in his 20s, a resident of the Mayo scatter housing complexes south of Khartoum, earns his income as a car washer in downtown Khartoum, hoping to provide for himself and his family, who were displaced by the atrocities of war, only to find themselves in a merciless city.
Every day, Adam carries his cloth and bucket of water and soap, and roams between the crannies of parked cars in the city; he bargains with car owners to wash their vehicles for very little money – some tell him they are in a hurry, and some grudgingly accept. Like a child, he skips away to the sound of local beats and music, and goes on to wash cars squeaky clean under the burning sun, to save himself from poverty and starvation.
As he went on about his job, one day, he saw a police car carrying armed policemen. They surrounded him, and forced him to come with them, for “violating municipality orders.” They proceeded to remove the half-cleaned car’s license plate, and place a sticker on its door that states, “Owner of the car must present himself at the nearest police station for violating municipal order number 11.”
Adam has no idea what municipal orders are, let alone the city’s laws – as it was the lack of laws and power abuse that has made him flee his home town in Darfur and move to Khartoum.
It seems, however, that the Municipality of Khartoum has passed an order that punishes those who wash cars in unauthorized areas, as well as the car owner. The order states that one must pay 200 SDG, or face jail time.
Adam tells Al Tareeq, “In mid-November of last year, I went about my usual work, which is washing cars. I was arrested by policemen and I was taken to a hearing in the ‘Eastern Diyoum’ public order court. The court ordered me to pay 200 SDG, and I did not have that large sum of money, so they escorted me to a holding cell in the police station. In the morning, they took me to New Halfa, and told me I must work in the sugar plantation that belongs to New Halfa Sugar Factory.”
Adam, who was not represented by any lawyer or legal person in court, was not alone, as there were tens of young men in the court hearing, “There must have been around 51 young men and boys that day, all who work as car washers, or street vendors.”
He adds, “Some of them had the bail money and were free to go. But, me and about 20 others had nothing. We pleaded with the judge to let us go, and that we would wash cars wherever it was authorized, and that we did not know of the law…” However, Adam and his mates’ pleas were all in vain, as a policeman forcefully came through and stuffed them in the back of a police truck with armed officers, taking them far away from Khartoum.
The young car washer met with Al Tareeq after serving his jail time in forced labor, working in the fields of New Halfa Sugar Factory, owned by the Sudanese Sugar Company, “We arrived in New Half after a long and tedious trip of being guarded by armed police officers. When we got there, we were passed on to other policemen, who took us to New Halfa Penitentiary.”
“The next morning, we were divided into small groups and taken to the sugar farmlands. We had to cut sugar canes and transport them. We worked from sunrise to sunset – in the evening, a car comes by and takes us back to prison to spend the night. We sleep, wake up, and repeat,” he continued. Furthermore, he points out, “We were provided three poor meals a day, and not one single pound for our work.”
Two months after performing forced labor, Adam says, “My sentence was over, I was free to go, and I had no way of returning to Khartoum. I begged them to take me back, since I did not have any money, but they ignored me. The day after, an officer talked to a driver on the road who agreed to take me with him. Unfortunately, Al Gadaref was his last stop. I spent the night there, and the next morning I told a bus driver my story, and asked him to take me back to Khartoum, which he did.”
Forced, unpaid labor is prohibited under international law, according to lawyer Shawki Yacoub, who adds, “Article 8 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that no one shall be subjected to forced or compulsory labor.” Yacoub further elaborates, “Even under the Sudanese law, which contradicts the International Law, the punishment of ‘hard labor’ during jail time must be issued from a specific court, that grants the accused party the right to defend themselves – not through the public order court.”
Altareeq Newspaperhttps://www.altareeq.info/en/forced-sudan-forced-unpaid/https://www.altareeq.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/444-300x166.jpghttps://www.altareeq.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/444-95x95.jpgReportsLabour,SudanHussein Adam would have never imagined as he left his house in the outskirts of Khartoum, going on about his day to work in the streets of the city, that he would not return home to his family for over a month. Adam, a young man in his 20s, a...AltareeqAltareeq firstname.lastname@example.orgEditorAltareeq Newspaper