January 30, 2011 – (KHARTOUM) – Hundreds of young Sudanese demonstrators have been beaten and dozens arrested by security forces during sporadic protests in the capital Khartoum and other towns, in the first day of anti-government protests planned by youth inspired by the events in Tunisia and Egypt.
- A group of Sudanese youth demonstrate in downtown Khartoum on 30 January 2011 (Facebook)
The contagion of mass anti-government protests has spread from Tunisia, where weeks of protests ended the 23-year rule of President Ben Ali, to Egypt, where six days of unrest are shaking the rule of President Hosni Mubarak.
North Sudan, which stands to lose billions of dollars in oil revenues as a result of the secession of the south, faces a deep economic crisis as prices of basic commodities continue to soar. Sudan was forced to devaluate its currency to prevent it from sliding further against the dollar.
For the past few days Sudanese youth have been using Facebook and other online media outlets to create support and awareness of their planned protest, which started on Sunday around three universities in Khartoum as well as Wad Medani, the capital of Sudan’s agriculture heartland of Al-Jazzirah and in Al-Obeid, the provincial capital of North Kordofan State.
The protesting youth took to the streets chanting slogans against rising prices of basic commodities and calling for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to step down.
The police used teargas and batons to break up the demonstrators, and arrested dozens in the process.
A statement released by the Sudanese police on Sunday said its forces had contained a “limited riot” staged by some students including some “agitators.” According to the police release, 40 students and 30 citizens were arrested. The police said that all students were released on bail.
There are unconfirmed reports that one student, named as Mohamed Abdel Rahman of Omdurman Ahlia University, died at the hospital hours later as a result of injuries he sustained during the clashes.
Sudanese authorities have zero-tolerance for protests, public gatherings of political nature are banned under the law and obtaining permission for protests is limited to pro-government protests.
A senior member of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), Kamal Ubayd, said that the protests, which he described as limited and weak, were merely an attempt by some opposition parties to embarrass each other.
Youth groups organizing the protest released a statement saying they intend to stage more demonstrations on February 3.
Meanwhile, the alliance of opposition forces has launched a scathing criticism of the government’s forces for arresting protestors, blaming the government for the secession of the south and worsening economic conditions.
The leading member of the alliance, Mubarak al-Fadil Al-Mahdi, demanded that President al-Bashir tender his resignation immediately and make arrangements for a transitional government in order to save the country from further degeneration.
The use of excessive force against protestors has elicited condemnation from several civil and political organizations.
Yasir Arman, the leader of the SPLM’s northern sector, said that the brutal manner in which the police and security dealt with today’s protest was “a breach of the constitution, human rights and mores of our society.”
Arman called for the release of all the detainees, including Islamist opposition leader Hassan Al-Turabi. He also said the government should reverse the recent increases in prices.
The Association of Darfur Lawyers also denounced the use of unjustified violence and grave violations against citizens, demanding the immediate release of the detainees.
A number of journalists were also arrested while covering the protests. According to a release by the Network of Sudanese Journalists seven journalists were taken into custody.