Sudan: Security forces massacre protesters amid rising

Issue 

Security forces killed 12 anti-government protesters — mostly teenagers — and injured more than 80 on July 31 in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.

The protests, which began the previous day, were launched by hundreds of primary and secondary school students in opposition to price rises for basic goods. Numbers swelled as more and more people took to the streets to join the students, calling for the downfall of the regime.

Security forces fired tear gas, beat protesters with batons and used live ammunition on the crowds. A shoot-to-kill policy was evident in the head and chest wounds of the victims.

Anger erupted on the streets of Nyala at the massacre and the ease with which the protesters were murdered compared with less fatal attacks on demonstrations throughout the rest of Sudan.

Protesters burned a police station, police cars and a fuel station. The army swept the streets in an attempt to restore control, armed with heavy weaponry, while military planes flew low over the city.

In the days that followed, protests, memorials and prayers for the victims were organised by opposition groups and activists in Khartoum. At one protest, women held signs saying “One blood, one Sudan”. The Sudanese Communist Party described the massacre as a “crime against humanity”.

Sustained protests throughout Sudan against President Omer Al Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) government began on June 16, sparked by new austerity measures. In response, the regime has consistently sought to terrorise the population into ending the uprising.

The same day as the Nyala massacre, police attacked a Democratic Lawyers Alliance meeting in Khartoum, where 1000 lawyers had gathered to discuss human rights issues.

Scores of protesters, bloggers, journalists and others are currently being detained, many in the notorious “ghost houses” in unknown locations. Torture is standard practice and National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) officers are immune from prosecution for their crimes.

Human rights activist Rudwan Dawod and Widad Darwish are facing terrorism charges after organising a peaceful protest in Khartoum last month.

They are members of the youth organisation Girifna (“We’re fed up”) and were kidnapped by NISS officers following the July 4 protest and tortured in custody.

Accused by the regime of spying for the CIA, Dawod, originally from Darfur and now a US resident, had been working on a project in South Sudan to mobilise fellow Muslims to assist in the rebuilding of a Catholic church as a gesture of reconciliation.

Hundreds of people have attended each court session and global solidarity with the accused is growing. If convicted when the court resumes on August 13, the two men may face the death penalty.

On July 24, the International Monetary Fund congratulated the NCP regime on austerity measures that have caused spiralling poverty and fuelled the anti-regime uprising. 

The IMF welcomed “the difficult but important efforts made by the Sudanese authorities in recent weeks to address the domestic and external economic impact of South Sudan’s secession”, which would “restore fiscal sustainability over time”.

An August 2, UN Security Council deadline for resolving the dispute over oil between Sudan and South Sudan expired without an agreement.

Most of the two countries’ combined oil reserves lie in South Sudan, but Juba must use Sudan’s export infrastructure, for which Khartoum has demanded excessive transit fees. Earlier this year, Juba shut down all oil production after Khartoum began stealing oil in lieu of the payments it was demanding.

Negotiations have repeatedly stalled, in part due to Khartoum’s ongoing bombings across South Sudan’s border. Under pressure from the West, Juba recently offered Khartoum US$3.2 billion compensation for loss of oil income and more than $9 a barrel in transit fees. However, the NCP regime rejected the proposal.

On August 3, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton travelled to South Sudan to push President Salva Kiir’s government to reach a compromise with Khartoum.

Students march in Nyala on July 31 against the regime.