Home | News    Thursday 10 March 2011

Sudan clamps down on opposition protest, detains dozens

March 9, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese security forces arrested and beat dozens of opposition activists soon after they began their planned demonstration in downtown Khartoum on Wednesday, drawing condemnation both domestically and abroad.

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Sudanese anti-riot police using batons to disperse demonstrators in Khartoum on October 9, 2010 (file/AFP)

Opposition activists disregarded earlier warnings by the police that their planned protest would be an unlawful act and convened around Abu Genzir square in central Khartoum on Wednesday afternoon, chanting slogans calling for the downfall of President Al-Bashir’s government.

Hundreds of anti-riot police reinforced by plain-clothed agents of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) swiftly moved in with batons and dispersed the protestors as soon as they started to gather in the square.

Over 50 opposition members were arrested and released during the evening including the leader of the Sudanese Communist Party, Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud, the leader of Sudanese Congress Party, Ibrahim Al-Sheikh, and the leader of Unionist Nasserist Party, Gamal Idris.

In a press conference he held later, the chairman of the opposition National Consensus Forces, Farouk Abu Eissa, denounced the arrest of Nugud and other opposition leaders. He also condemned the harsh repression against the protesters saying the "country is ruled by a group of gangs" who disregard the law.

He also said the strategic goal of the opposition is to overthrow the regime and to restore democracy, rule of law and justice for the marginalized Sudanese.

The Sudanese government of President Al-Bashir, which has ruled the country since 1989, has squashed all anti-government activities in the past but its response to dissent has recently escalated after popular protests in Tunisia and neighboring Egypt toppled governments which were in power for decades.

A day earlier on Tuesday Sudan conducted a similar clampdown on female activists protesting against human rights abuses and the alleged rape of a young female activist by three NISS agents last month. The incident coincided with the world’s celebration of International Women’s Day.

Sudan also violently responded to small anti-government protests on 30 January in Khartoum organized via the internet by youth groups, arresting dozens of youth activists who have been reportedly subjected to several forms of physical and sexual abuse.

"The Sudanese government must immediately release all demonstrators" said Erwin van der Borght, Africa Director at the global human rights organization Amnesty International in a press release on Wednesday.

Amnesty International noted that some of those arrested include “prominent human rights activists, politicians and journalists.”

The opposition Democratic Unionist Party condemned in a press release seen by Sudan Tribune the campaign of arrests waged by security forces against political leaders and activists as well as the “brutal” manner in which the security authorities dealt with protestors at Abu Ginzeir square.

The party called on the government to enter into a dialogue with the opposition in order to extricate Sudan from its crises.

Numerous groups created on social networking sites such as Facebook by Sudanese youths have been calling for mass mobilization against the government, which is faced with an economic crisis after the oil-producing region of South Sudan voted to become independent in a referendum earlier this year.