June 19, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The United States voiced on Tuesday “deep” concerns over the violence with which Sudanese authorities have been responding to peaceful demonstrations against worsening economic conditions in the last three days.
- FILE PHOTO - Sudanese women protestors shout slogans during a protest in Khartoum last year (AFP/Isam al-Haj)
“The United States is deeply concerned by the crackdown by the Sudanese authorities on peaceful demonstrators in Khartoum over the last three days” said a statement by the U.S. Department of State’s office of spokesman.
Demonstrations mainly led by students against rising costs of living have erupted in different parts of Sudan’s sprawling capital Khartoum as well as two towns in north and east of the country as of Sunday. Police forces resorted to the use of teargas and batons to break up the demonstrators and arrested dozens.
The protests follow announcements by the government of harsh austerity plans including termination of 2 billion USD in fuel subsidies as part of what official say are an attempt to confront the economic crisis that has been plaguing the country since it lost three quarters of oil revenues – the lifeblood of economy – with the secession of South Sudan in July last year.
“We call on the Government of Sudan to respect the right of its citizens to freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly in order to raise their grievances” the U.S. statement added.
Meanwhile, another bout of protests broke out on Tuesday in Khartoum and its sister-city of Omdurman. The protests in Omdurman started around Al-Ahila University before spreading to other parts of town.
In response, police forces used teargas and rubber bullets, injuring and arresting a number of students.
Police authorities issued a statement saying that the demonstrations were “limited” and called on citizens to make “propagators of anarchy” miss their opportunity.
There have also been reports of plain-cloth individuals armed with metal rods participating in the crackdown on protestors.
Sudanese opposition groups, including the mainstream National Consensus Forces (NCF) and anti-government youth groups, vowed to continue the protests to force the government to reverse plans to lift fuel subsidies.
Meanwhile, security authorities in Khartoum arrested an AFP correspondent named Simon Martelli for twelve hours before releasing him today.
A Sudanese security official said that Martelli, a British national, was arrested when he was found talking to student protestors and taking photos. He declined to divulge more details.
The journalist arrest comes amid increased crackdown by Sudanese authorities on newspapers and individual journalists.
At least three papers have had their copies confiscated this week with some of them being ordered to bring their draft editions to security authorities for screening before publication.
The U.S. statement also said that Washington is concerned that “Sudanese authorities have increased pre-publication censorship of independent newspapers in recent weeks. We call on Sudan to respect freedom of expressing, including for members of the press, as guaranteed in the Interim National Constitution of 2005 and internationally recognized covenants to which the Government of Sudan is party.”