October 16, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese minister of interior, Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid, has responded to criticism from MPs against the way in which police forces countered demonstrations over worsening economic conditions in the country, defending his subordinates’ “restraint” in dealing with the short-lived unrest.
- FILE PHOTO - Sudanese police beating a protester during demonstrations in downtown Khartoum in January
Police forces along with agents of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) used mass arrests, teargas, rubber bullets and batons to break up small but several protests that erupted across the capital Khartoum and other parts of the country as of June, following the government decision to cut fuel subsidies as part of a larger austerity program aimed at dealing with an economic crisis caused by the loss of three quarters of the country’s oil resources to South Sudan when it seceded last year.
As the protests in Khartoum largely petered out towards the end of July, mainly due to continued use of violence and forced disappearance of hundreds of activists, police forces used excessive force in response to a protest that broke out on 31 July in Nyala, the capital of the western state of South Darfur, killing 13 protesters, most of them are young students, and effectively nipping the protest movement in the bud.
Standing before the parliament on Tuesday to present a report on the security situation in the country, the minister of interior was heckled by a number of MPs over the violent conduct of police forces in dealing with the protests.
The minister responded by saying that the “wise and restraint” manner in which the police dealt with the protests is actually what led to their end without spilling of blood or injuries requiring hospitalization.
In the case of Nyala, the minister said that they formed an investigation committee which issued a preliminary report absolving the police from involvement in the killings.
According to the minister, an owner of a gas station in Nyala already confessed to killing 4 of the protesters in self-defense after they attempted to set his property on fire.
He added that the investigation is still continuing on the death of the rest of the protesters but he stressed that the police chief in Nyala confirmed that none of their forces used live rounds in dispersing the protests.
Mahmoud also rejected insinuations by some MPs that the police had intended to use live rounds against Nyala protesters while avoiding to engage in the same practice against Khartoum protesters.
“There is no difference between the manner of police in Nyala and Khartoum” he intoned in response to what he described as veiled accusations that the police had premeditated the killings in Nyala.
The minister also faced criticism from some MPs against what they described as their concerns over the rise of illicit drugs intake among students of universities and secondary schools.
But the minister downplayed the concerns saying that only 4.7 percent of university students use drugs and putting their number at 456.
In contrast, however, local anti-narcotics authorities reported in September that there are “insane” increases in the percentage of illicit drugs intake, saying it has risen to 34 percent among the country’s adult population and that young students constitute the majority of consumers.