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Death of Darfur students continues to spark demos, arrests in Sudan’s capital

December 10, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Protests in the Sudanese capital Khartoum over the death of four students originally from the country’s western region of Darfur continued for the third day on Monday as the ensuing security clampdown led to more arrests, witnesses told Sudan Tribune.

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Sudanese students demonstrate in front of the Faculty of Computer Sciences and Information Technology in Port, Sudan (AFP/File)

Nearly 500 students marched out of Al-Nilain University in the center of the capital shouting slogans calling for regime change and denouncing the killing of the students as the “killing of a nation” but police forces broke up the protest using heavy teargas.

A similar protest involving 200 students who demonstrated outside the agriculture faculty of Khartoum University in Khartoum North (Bahri) and attempted to block a bridge linking it to Omdurman was also dispersed by security forces.

Dozens of other students demonstrated in the capital’s central bus station known as “Jakson Square”, where police arrested many of them and charged them with rioting and disturbing public order.

This is the third and more potent round of protests over the mysterious death on 7 December of four Darfuri students and disappearance of two others at Al-Gazira University in Madani town, South of Khartoum.

The bodies of the dead students were found in a canal after they went missing following their participation earlier in the week in a sit-in staged by students from Darfur to protest the university administration’s refusal to waive their tuition fees as agreed under the 2010 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) which was signed between the government and a rebel faction to end the nine-year conflict in the region.

The sit-in was disrupted by police forces and loyalists of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) who attacked the protesters and chased them to the site of the canal.

Darfur Students Association and activist groups say the four were killed, blaming their death on what they described as NCP militias.

Eye witnesses told Sudan Tribune that Monday’s demonstrations witnessed a significant increase in the number of participants but the protests did not last for long compared to Sunday’s protests in which more than 400 student protesters from Khartoum University demonstrated in the center of the town for hours as the police struggled to break them up due to heavy traffic.

The police say 47 protesters were arrested during Sunday’s protests on charges of illegal assembly and causing riots can chaos.

In a statement released on Monday, the police said that the students protested against the background of the “drowning” of four university students. The statement stated that the protesters clogged traffic and vandalized public and private properties, adding that the police had managed to control the situation “using minimum civil force”

Meanwhile, chief editors of Sudanese newspapers received strict orders via sms from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on Sunday’s evening to refrain from publishing any reports about the protests in their Monday’s editions except the official comments.

NISS also banned newspapers from publishing unusual comments by the NCP’s senior Darfuri member Hassan Bargo who accused the government of targeting Darfur students in universities.

The board of deans of Al-Gazira University decided on Monday to suspend study indefinitely.

The federal ministry of higher education has claimed that there is another reason for the incidents that happened at Al-Gazira University but would not reveal it.

The higher education minister Khamis Kago Kunda told reporters on Monday that the events that took place in Al-Gazira were not caused by the tuition waiver issue but there are other reasons. He however did not say what they were.

Condemnations, calls for probe

The death of Darfur students has sparked an outcry and calls for immediate investigations.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a press release issued on Monday that Sudanese authorities should immediately investigate the deaths and bring those responsible to account.

Similarly, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), a Sudanese NGO, called on Sudanese authorities to condemn the excessive use of force by its security forces and conduct an immediate investigation into the deaths.

Sudan’s official news agency (SUNA) reported on Sunday that the ministry of justice decided to form a committee to investigate the deaths.