Excessive force used against Sudan students: US envoy
Sudanese authorities have used excessive force against Darfuri students protesting for their rights, the US government’s senior adviser for Darfur said on Wednesday.
“We’ve also been very unhappy about the excessive force used against Darfuri students demonstrating for their rights under the agreement,” Ambassador Dane Smith told reporters, referring to a 2011 peace pact signed between Khartoum and an alliance of Darfur rebel splinter factions.
Protests, sometimes involving hundreds of people, have occurred since Saturday outside Khartoum universities and elsewhere in support of four dead youth who were originally from the conflict-plagued Darfur region.
Their deaths, following a crackdown on a tuition protest at Gezira University south of Khartoum, have sparked the largest outpouring of Arab Spring-style discontent since anti-regime protests in June and July.
Demonstrators have called for “revolution” and the fall of President Omar al-Bashir’s 23-year regime.
The Darfur Students Association has said the four went missing after taking part in a peaceful sit-in which was disrupted by the pro-government student union.
They were protesting for their “right” to free education, the association said.
Smith called the deaths “shocking” and said they formed part of his discussions during meetings this week in Khartoum.
Under the Darfur peace deal signed in Doha, offspring of people displaced by Darfur’s nine-year rebel-government conflict are supposed to get a five-year fee waiver at national universities.
But Smith said there has been only “very limited implementation” of the peace agreement, meaning the exact way in which the students’ rights would apply remains undefined.
“So it’s quite reasonable, it seems to me, that Darfuri students are protesting and saying we have rights under this agreement that are not being met, he said, speaking during his final visit to Sudan, at the end of his two-year appointment.
He said he hoped for a thorough investigation of what happened to the El Gezira youth, “and that the Darfuri students will receive their rights under the agreement”.
University officials say the four students drowned.
New York-based Human Rights Watch interviewed witnesses who reported that “government security forces pushed the protesters toward the canal, causing several students to fall in”.