The Story of the Ritz Lounge, Khartoum.

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I was told** of this case only yesterday and it just struck me how in Sudan we enjoy no rights whatsoever. Zilch. Nada. Zero.

One’s age, gender, social status means nothing. It comes down to one simple fact – you’re either ‘with’ the ruling party and reap the (astronomical) benefits of such an association or you’re on the outer peripheries of whatever inner circle the NCP deems fit to fend for yourself and manoeuvre the myriad of obstacles put into place to ensure you cannot better yourself, cannot succeed, cannot function as a human on any level. So regardless of what your social, financial and educational background is, good luck in trying to make something of yourself.

The Ritz Restaurant/Lounge was a recent welcome addition to the Khartoum scene. Food was reportedly good, service was shit, great decor and location overlooking the Nile on the Garden City side of the river – you’re typical new ‘IN’ place in a city whose residents are starving for spots to escape the crap they face and deal with on a daily basis. 

The owner bought the pricey plot of land and proceeded to set up the lounge. For like a month or so things were going well, word of mouth was doing its usual excellent work of ensuring punters kept going and the tills ringing. All of a sudden during the last week of Ramadan we were told the place shut down, problems with the Mahaleya (the local municipality) regarding the land itself.

Turns out the realtor/agent sold land that wasn’t for sale nor did he have the permission of the owner to sell. Whats more, the real owner was allegedly someone high-up in the ruling party and they were livid. Word is the owner’s the First Lady – (in all actuality she’s the Second Lady but we won’t let such details bother us) who probably got the land for peanuts (assuming she paid in the first place) and was either going to make a killing with it or develop some gaudy, unnecessary, white elephant of a pseudo-government enterprise using public money.

Next thing we hear the Ritz was demolished. Broken into smithereens with nothing left but rubble and broken pieces of concrete. Turns out the Mahaliya gave the owner notice to vacate the premises in the morning, he asked for a ‘grace period’ so he could clear out the furniture and equipment, get his matters into order etc – the usual steps any business owner takes when they’re forcibly shut down especially as its clear he invested quite a bit in setting up the lounge.

By the end of the night there was no more Ritz. Bulldozers were sent in seemingly with the instructions to demolish everything which is precisely what they did. The owner allegedly only had time to save the printer everything else was smashed and broken. This was a hateful, vengeful act ordered by someone high up for the local authorities to act so swiftly as the only time they act in any way and with speed is when they need money from the people or when they have to – dignitary visiting, the tv cameras are coming to shoot something and so on. Warning in the morning, destruction by early evening.

True, end of the day the land was not his but not through his own fault. It’s not like buying plots is a matter of bartering there are legal paperwork and lengthy procedures one goes through before anything can be bought and sold. The Mahaliya should’ve given him to time to vacate but because someone high up was miffed they went in all gung ho like a crime’s been committed. The guys investment is now nothing but rubble. The time, effort and money spent on building & establishing something gone in a matter of minutes. Even if he takes the agent to court (assuming the guy’s still in town) or the mahaliya itself the probability of him getting anything back is minute. It’s just a depressing state of affairs.

If the land belonged to anyone else but a regime insider the matter would’ve and could’ve been dealt with better. But no, the Untouchables were hit and for that there’s a very high price to pay.

In Sudan, the whole populace is adversely hit by the government. Your ethnicity, your gender, your religious faith, your business decisions and choices, your political affiliation, your line of work and business, your attire even make you a target. for anything and everything. The only bracket immune to such violations are those “with them”. George W. Bush said it best: you’re either with us or against us. 10294247_666812690060297_7055158338927882473_n 10383578_666813200060246_8062341218682362124_n 10428571_666812733393626_667016749250649684_n 10422560_666812820060284_4452695104128795473_n

** What I’ve written on this case is based on what I was told, if there’s incorrect or missing info my apologies.

all the pictures are from the Ritz page on Facebook

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