Sudan’s road to democracy had a significant boost this week with the announcement by the Sudanese government that there would be no censorship at the 15th Khartoum International Book Fair that runs October 17-29.

At a press conference Sudan’s Minister of Culture and Information, Faisal Mohamed Salih, said,

The 15th session represents continuation of a long and valuable march… Sudan is laying ground for a modern democratic state and experiencing genuine change embedded in full openness in the fair.

So far there have been no reports to give us reason to doubt the sincerity of the new government, which has said that “cultural life is a top priority” in the wake of the Omar Hassan Al Bashir dictatorship being deposed earlier this year.

In 2018 a number of books were banned by the Al Bashir regime.

The Khartoum fair has the participation of 200 domestic and foreign publishing houses, although the breakdown is not yet clear. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, China and South Sudan are among the countries attending.

The Khartoum International Book Fair director, Prof Abdelazim Magzoub, announced that for the first time the event has a hall dedicated to children’s books.

The 2019 edition has had a disappointing turnout of foreign writers and poets, which is attributed to past instability.

Salih has pledged to ensure the 16th Khartoum International Book Fair will be better prepared and better attended.

It seems to me that Minister Salih might want to consider, when addressing this problem, selecting a date for the Khartoum fair that does not coincide with Frankfurt, which as the world’s largest trade event tends to drown out news of smaller events such as this, and is attracting publishing houses that might otherwise have been willing to also participate in the Khartoum event.