Inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, Youth of 30 January for Change Alliance in Sudan has mobilised thousands in protest.
(1 February 2011) Demonstrations organised by the “Youth of 30 January for Change Alliance”, a coalition of members of student movements such as Girifna, Nahoa Alshari, and Aid ala Aid and supported by the National Consensus Forces, a group of mainstream opposition groups, mobilised thousands of activists through social networking in Khartoum, El Obeid, Wad Medani and Kosti. The demonstrations called for President Omar al-Bashir to abdicate power, and for the National Congress Party (NCP) to rescind austerity measures imposed to combat the economic effects of Southern secession. The unrest that sparked Egypt and Tunisia’s popular uprisings was channeled into the protests in Sudan, where Facebook invitations through the group Youth for Change stated “it is the right time to rise against oppression and despair…if the Egyptians and Tunisians can break the fear barrier, so can we. What are we waiting for? Our history says we can!”
The demonstrations in Sudan’s North occurred at an extremely politically sensitive time. The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission announced their first official preliminary tabulation of votes on Sunday with a 98.85% vote for secession. Though the results were to be expected and were not an official declaration of independence, police and the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) were already on high alert. Since the referendum voting, sporadic protests on rising prices against commodities have been met with intense backlash, and organisation of the political opposition and calls for a constitutional conference have led to repressive tactics reminiscent of the NCP’s early days in power.
Despite the challenges, the demonstrations mark the first time that the opposition has publicly supported the youth movement in Sudan. It is also unusual for activists to so brazenly demand an end to NCP hegemony. More demonstrations have been organised, with the next scheduled for 3 February. In the face of hundreds of armed riot police, thousands of protestors chanted “revolution, revolution until victory”, and “we are ready to die for Sudan”. Below is a brief synopsis of the protests and names of those detained, injured, tortured, and currently being held incommunicado.
• In Omdurman at 10:30 AM, joint NISS and police forces attacked demonstrators at Omdurman Islamic University and Omdurman Al Ahlia University with black water pipes, sticks, and tear gas. Thirty eight students were arrested and referred to the Abo Said Police Station in Elfitihab area, where they were charged with rioting. The police released the group on bail after they provided their addresses.
• In Khartoum at 11 AM, youth gathered at meeting points at Midan Jackson, Sharia Algasr, and Al Meridan. They were attacked by joint NISS/police forces with water pipes and sticks. Journalists were targeted, and nine were arrested and referred to security offices near the Army High Commander in Khartoum. Photos from the demonstrations were deleted. The names of those arrested are:
o Hamza Albalul, Alahdath
o Rashid Abdulhab, Ajras Alhurria
o Ali Haj Alamin, Ajras Alhurria
o Sara Taj Alsir, Al Sahafa
o Ahmed Sir Alkhatim, Akhbar Alyoum
o Mohamed Marzouh, cameraman, Alakhbar
o Mohamed Aamir, cameraman, Alakhlas
o Fatima Alkhzali, Al Gerida
o Anas Abdurrahman, freelance journalist
Joint forces also arrested forty protestors, who were taken to the Al Shemali Police Station in Khartoum. Thirty of the detainees were released on bail, and ten remain in custody. Police officials have refused to release the names of the detainees. A full list of those released on bail is available from the African Centre. Those released reported that six female detainees were transferred to security offices near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Army High Commander in Khartoum. Some protestors were seriously injured in Khartoum by police wielding tear gas, water pipes, and sticks. They are:
1. Mahmoud Ali Alumdaa
2. Mustafa Mohamed Ali
3. Abdelrahman Ahmed Alhassan
4. Mohamed Abdelrahman
5. Ahmed Ali
6. Mustafa Mohamed Ali
• Mohamed Abdelrahman, a student at Omdurman Islamic University, was shot and killed by joint police and NISS forces when he joined demonstrations at Omdurman University. He died later that evening at Omdurman hospital. Messages on the Facebook wall for “Youth for Change” have proclaimed him as the first martyr of the revolution.
• At Khartoum University’s Student Shmbat complex, peaceful demonstrations were disrupted by the NISS, who attacked and arrested a number of students. Three of the names known are:
o Hadim Alzhari
o Mohamed Ahmed
o Albaid Abaquir
• At 4:30 PM, the NISS arrested Nasr Mahmoud Nasr, age 55, a member of the Umma Party and Trade Union organiser, from his home. Walid Alhidaia and Thuria Habib were also arrested from their homes in Khartoum.
For its part, the Police Media Office made a statement addressing the number of detainees, claiming that 70 people had been arrested, 40 of whom were students released on bail. Permits are requested for demonstrations, which are often denied. A spokesperson stated that the police did not use force excessive to what was “necessary”.
Initial monitoring by the African Centre indicates that the number of detainees is much higher than the number cited by police, and some of the demonstrators have been transferred to NISS custodies in Khartoum and Khartoum Bahri. Though not an exhaustive list, those known to still be detained are:
1. Yousef Mubark Alfadil
2. Slah Mubark Alfadil
3. Dr. Hussam Malik
4. Bshir Hussain
5. Louis Awil Weriak (a Southerner, he has reportedly been tortured and is currently being held incommunicado and separate from other members of the group. Mr. Weriak is a member of the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Khartoum)
6. Zinab Badraldeen
8. Slah Almubark
9. Rshad Ahmed
10. Mohamed Banaga
11. Musab Zain Alabdeen
12. Mutaz Mohamed
13. Ashraf Aiz Aldeen
14. Ahmed Fuaad
15. Mohamed Alhider
16. Muntasir zain Alabdeen
17. Omar Abdlbagi
18. Smah Mohamed Adam
19. Sidig Abdlgbar
20. Rashid Mohamed Abdalla
21. Ruaa Ahmed Osman
22. Mohamed Awad
23. Ahmed Babikir
25. Smah Bushra
26. Sara Taj Alsir
27. Samir Hassan
28. Marwa Alfaki
29. Rawa Salah
30. Thruat Swar Aldahab (tortured in police custody)
31. Abdalla Alaidrous
32. Amina Alsid
33. Suhaib Abbas
34. Mrwa Alriah
35. Mahir Hussein Alfil
36. Mohamed Wada
37. Ahmed Batik Mohamed Ali
38. Abdlaziz Kabala
39. Nasir Aldeen Yousef
40. Mohamed Alasir
41. Nuhan Alnagar
42. Nafisa Alnour Hajar, lawyer
43. Mohamed Adil
Similar protests occurred on 30 January in El Obeid Market in El Obeid, North Kordofan. Many people joined the demonstrations before the NISS and NCP-affiliated militias arrested a number of protestors from Kordofan University, Quaran Al Karim University, and El Obeid technical faculty, including Abeer Ahmed.
The following day, 31 January, solidarity demonstrations were organised in Kosti, Central Sudan, at Al Imam Al Mahdi University. Students of the Engineering Faculty staged a sit in, and refused to attend classes. Police and NCP affiliated students broke into the building and attacked the students. Five students escaped and went to demonstrate in the market. Three police lorries followed them, and beat them in the middle of the market. Shoppers prevented police from arresting three members of the group, including Ahmed Salih. Two members of the group were arrested, and police refused to give information on their names and condition. Monitoring indicates that the names of those in police custody are:
o Mohsin Abdelgadir, teacher and frequent contributor to SudaneseOnline
o Basil Mohsim, student
• On 31 January at 4:15, the NISS arrested student members of the National Alliance on Al Morda Street in Omdurman. They were taken to the NISS Political Affairs office in Khartoum Bahri, where they were forced to stand against a wall and beaten with water pipes and sticks until 9 PM. They were denied access to food, water, and toilets. They remain in NISS custody in Khartoum Bahri. The names of the detainees are:
o Mohamed Abdelrahman (NISS officers beating him taunted him, saying “are you the one who died?”, as his name is the same as the student killed at Omdurman University)
o Abdulla Mathi
o Rashid Abo Hassan
o Ahmed El Tijani
o Gahmat Mohamed Osman
Severe censorship on news publications and internet media were also instilled in an effort by the NISS to prevent information on the demonstrations and subsequent crackdowns from being widely distributed.
On 31 January, the NISS prevented Ajras Alhurria and Al Sahafa from being published. Though the NISS had visited the printing house the evening of the 30 January and approved the Ajras Alhurria edition to be printed the following day, they were prevented from distributing copies in the morning. Al Sahafa’s offices were visited the morning of the 31 January. The website Sudaneseonline, a news and forum site where many of the announcements were posted, has been blocked since Sunday, as has the website tinyurl.com, used to shorten links for Twitter. Twitter is not as frequently used as Facebook, so it remains unclear if the blockage was due to the events in Egypt or directly related to Sudanese events.
Opposition groups have launched a scathing criticism of the arrests, blaming the NCP for Southern secession, and worsening economic conditions. A leading member of the National Consensus Forces, Mubarak al-Fadir al-Mahdi, demanded Bashir’s immediate resignation and that the NCP make arrangements for a transitional government to counter further disintegration. Nafie Ali Nafie, the presidential assistant, stated that the demonstrations were a failed attempt by the opposition, while the pro-government Sudan Vision wrote that “our message to those opposition dinosaurs is to unite their ideas and objectives for the benefit of the citizens if they are really looking for the welfare of the Sudanese people”. In fact, the opposition has only grown stronger and more unified in recent months. The National Consensus Forces have agreed to only negotiate multilaterally with the NCP.
The incidents of 30 and 31 January indicate the seriousness of Sudan’s youth and student movements to challenge the repressive nature of the ruling regime and their lack of access to fundamental civil and political freedoms such as the freedom of expression and assembly, as well as access to information and justice. The freedom of expression, assembly, and association is guaranteed under Article 39 of the Interim National Constitution. These same rights are also in alignment with international standards under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
All of these incidents indicate that the NCP plans to curtail the small space open for political freedoms during the interim period, and refuse to engage in a dialogue with the opposition for a new constitutional arrangement. President Bashir’s implicit referral on 19 December in El Gedarif to the NCP’s tactics of its early days in power of managing political unrest by repression appears to have come to pass. The African Centre is extremely worried that the little respect left towards human rights and democratic pluralism and cultural diversity will recede at the end of the interim period, threatening the very existence of the North of the country. In a memorandum issued on the eve of the protests, the National Consensus Forces promised that if the NCP continues to avoid calls for dialogue on the future of the North, the National Consensus Forces will “dedicate themselves to tried and tested methods of civil political action to mobilize popular support behind demands to bring about change in government structure and policy”.
Contact: Osman Hummaida, Executive Director
Phone: +44 7956 095738
E-mail: [email][email protected]
Civil and political rights are critical to the interim period, which despite being in its last hours is a unique opportunity for the NCP and Northern opposition groups to define themselves. Yesterday’s events (and other incidents monitored by the Centre) illustrate that these ongoing rights violations are a pattern to silence dissident voices and limit access to information. The nature of crackdowns and the suppression undertaken by Sudanese authorities on peaceful efforts by civil undermines the NCP’s credibility further. The responses undertaken by police forces and the NISS exemplify the extent to which the NPC are unwilling to tolerate any other voices on the road to democratic transformation.