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Sudanese police arrest four students from Merowe dam affected communities

November 16, 2011 (KHARTOUM) — Four student leaders from the Manasir were arrested today by Sudan Security Forces in El Damer, the Capital of Nile State in Northern Sudan.

The students, all of whom are from (Wadi EL Niel University), were holding a peaceful protest to highlight the continuing hardship suffered by communities affected by the Merowe Dam.

Security forces led by two officers attacked the students while they were preparing to launch a peaceful march to the offices of the Nile State Government, eyewitness told Sudan Tribune on Thursday.

The march was violently dispersed and its leaders, Gasm Allha Ali Gasm Allah, Ahmed Ibrahim, Ahmed Al Nazir and Yahia Eldamer, were immediately arrested and taken to unknown location.

Community leaders condemned the excessive use of violence against the civilians in the region stressing that this is not the first time the security have attacked their peaceful protests.

In 2006, a militia linked to the Merowe Dam Implementation Unit (MDIU) attacked a peaceful gathering in Amri with live ammunitions, killing three people on the spot and injuring more than forty.

In 2003, when work on the dam began, students from Merowe dam affected communities (Manasir, Amri, Hamdab) have been at the forefront of the communities’ struggle to obtain the compensation to which they are legally entitled for losses of land and livelihood they have incurred a result of the dam.

Last month, students from the affected communities held a public rally in Khartoum, prompting leading journalist from the ruling of the National Conference Party to describe the communities as "rats" whom the MDIU had helped to bring from the 6th century to the 21st century.

Since 2003, MDIU has made only partial payments to those individuals who have been forcibly relocated to resettlement sites in such desert locations as El Multaga.

According to community leaders, 90% of the compensation due to those who lost their land to the dam’s reservoir has not been paid, despite the reservoir having been flooded over four years ago. Although the MDIU has made numerous promises to honour its commitments, it still refuses to pay compensation or set a specific date as to when the compensation will be paid.

Last month two prominent community leaders were arrested after participation in a workshop organised to discuss the compensation and resettlement issue. The leaders were released a month later without charge.

According to Sudanese and International Human Rights Organisations the Merowe Dam project has been marred by massive human rights abuses since its inception. Members of the affected communities have been subjected to detention, torture, injury, and killings.

In a desperate call to the government to resolve the problems caused by the construction of the dam and to stop violence against the population of the affected area, a prominent local leader regretted in a statement to Manasir Network that the authorities negotiate only to with those who hold arms against the government.

(ST)