Police opened fire and killed one student after a demonstration in Darfur’s main university against government restrictions on political activity, witnesses say. A wave of small anti-government protests focused in northern universities this year inspired by a popular uprising in neighbouring Egypt have been quashed by security forces and have failed to spark wider rallies among Sudan’s divided population.
Rebels in Darfur took up arms in early 2003 demanding more autonomy, prompting a brutal counter-insurgency campaign which led to the indictment of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes and genocide in the remote west. Three witnesses told Reuters uniformed police had broken up a protest inside the university in Darfur’s main town of el-Fasher on Wednesday and that they heard gunfire. Students hurled stones at police after authorities banned all political activity in Darfur’s main universities earlier this month.
Abdallah Adam Mohamed, a student, told Reuters from el-Fasher that he had seen Darfuri student Jamal Mustafa’s body with three gunshots wounds at the hospital morgue. “There was random shooting by police forces who were inside the university,” he said, adding he had seen the clashes.
Another witness who declined to be named said he had heard shooting adding authorities closed the university on Thursday. “There were clashes between the government forces and the students and I heard live fire,” the student said.
United Nations-African Union peacekeepers (UNAMID) confirmed police clashed with students killing one person, adding they had reports that a second victim died from his injuries on Thursday.
“Six to 10 others are reportedly injured,” said UNAMID spokesman Chris Cycmanick. “The protests took place after political activity was suspended at the Universities of Nyala and El-Fasher several days ago.”
Sudanese police said in a statement that students had clashed with each other and the university security had found Mustafa lying on the ground and taken him to hospital where he later died, without specifying how.
The deaths are likely to raise tensions in Darfur’s main towns, surrounded by miserable refugee camps where some 2 million people squat after fleeing militia attacks and fighting between rebels and the army. The conflict began in 2003.
Young activists are planning further anti-government protests on March 21 in Khartoum.