A version of this blog appeared on Enough Said. The views expressed are the authors' own.
Sudanese police forces fired tear gas at over 1,000 mourners at a funeral procession on Wednesday for a junior-level University of Khartoum economics major who was killed by government forces on Tuesday, March 12.
Ali Abakar Musa’s death heralded a new bout of protests amid the implementation of new shoot-to-kill policies by government forces that tried to quell protests on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Sudan and the renewed crisis in Darfur.
Protesters at the funeral marched in fury, chanting slogans that ranged from “the killing of a student, the killing of a nation” and for the “downfall of the regime” in what was an effort to avenge the death of a student and a call for a new revolution against the ruling Bashir regime.
The Tuesday protests started following a rally by the Darfur Student Association that had demanded the attention of the United Nations by writing an open letter addressing the critical situation in Darfur.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported 55,000 people displaced from Saraf Omra in West Darfur since Feb. 28 following fighting between “paramilitary troops and government forces.”
More than 50 villages were burned and 45,000 others have been displaced in villages around Darfur. Some 15,000 people have fled North Darfur after an attack by the government’s armed forces.
The student demands included urging the UN and Security Council “to take all [the] necessary measures to stop the bloodshed in the Darfur region.” They also demanded the allocation of peacekeeping troops from the African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to protect civilians in those areas.
Among other demands was the inclusion of SAF’s Major General Abbas Abdul Aziz to the list of those indicted by the ICC in a renewed investigation in the crimes committed against civilians in Darfur.
This letter came after the UNAMID’s call for the end to the fighting in North Darfur on Monday, March 9, following fears of a resumed crisis in the region.
Another memorandum was submitted concurrently to the deputy speaker of Sudan's National Council by the Saraf Omra Student Association demanding immediate allocation of troops to Saraf Omra to protect citizens and maintain security.
The Tuesday rally escalated to a public protest against the regime of more than 200 students. They took to the streets outside of Khartoum University where they were met with a tear gas fired by security and police forces. Live ammunition, an ever more frequent police tool, was used, leading to the death of Ali Abakar Musa and the injury of two others. Hundreds were arrested and detained.
Protests erupted again Tuesday evening in front of the hospital where Musa was announced dead and those injured were being treated. A public address, caught on video, shows a student calling for protests and action to avenge the killing of a student. He said the government compelled all those arrested to sign documents saying that Musa died of natural causes and was not killed. The student on video exclaimed, “They are killing us in our own campuses, they are killing students! We have got to act and show him what he’s worth.”
The police responded with a statement Wednesday morning denying all responsibility for the events of Tuesday afternoon. They even stressed in the statement that the police will “make all-out efforts to uncover the circumstances of this incident and arrest the offenders.” They further explained that they had only fired tear gas at students who had taken the protest outside the bounds of the university premises. The police statement included a public plea to citizens and students to not succumb to influence by illegal armed movements that are banned from congregating and engaging in any political activities. Armed rebel groups were once again blamed for the live ammunition fired at the students of Khartoum University.
A statement was issued by the dean of Khartoum University on Tuesday expressing deep regret and concern over the violence that erupted inside the university campus and the death of Musa. He also apologized for those injured in the event and condemned the violence. He promised an investigation into the incident by “creating an investigation unit made by university professors to research the facts of the incident.”
Furthermore, University of Khartoum spokesperson, Abdel-Malik Al-Naiem, announced the university's decision to suspend classes until further notice to avoid more violence from occurring on campus while the investigation is ongoing.
Ali Abakar’s death is one of over 200 deaths perpetrated by government forces since late September of 2013. Hundreds still continue to be killed by government forces in Darfur in an 11-year-old war between the government and rebel movements in Darfur.
Khartoum’s youth are now aware of the government’s brutality first-hand and they will not stop until the eventual “downfall of the regime.”
Amid the media blackout in Sudan, citizen journalism was on the rise with Sudanese youth reporting on the university protests.
On Wednesday morning, many of those activists were arrested after having reported to news channels such as Al-Jazeera, Sky News, Fox, etc.
The youth seek to inform the international community of this week’s protest and educate the youth in Sudan of their rights to protest the humanitarian crisis in Sudan. So the “the killing of a student” becomes “the killing of a nation.”