12 December 2012

Sudan: U.S. Official Regrets Sudan Government's Use of 'Excessive Force' Against Darfur Students

Khartoum — U.S. Special Advisor for Darfur Dane Smith on Wednesday expressed dismay at the use of "excessive force" by Sudanese security authorities against the Darfuri students who demonstrated in demand of their rights last week, when four students died in what activists describe as murder.

The visiting U.S. official told reporters in Khartoum that he is dismayed by the excessive force with which the authorities countered a sit-in organized on 7 December by Darfuri students at Al-Gazira University in central Sudan in demand of exemption from tuition fees as arguably stipulated under the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) which was signed in 2010 between the government and the former rebel Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) with the aim of ending the nine-year conflict in the region.

The death of the students, which activist groups blamed on loyalists of the ruling National Congress Party, sparked a wave of demonstrations across universities but the authorities managed to contain them. The Association of Darfur Students said that the four died "fighting for their right to free education". The group also says that 140 students were arrested in the demonstrations that followed the events of Al-Gazira.

Smith described the death of the students as "shocking" and added that he raised this issue during his meetings with Sudanese officials this week.

The US official also expressed disappointment at the "limited" implementation of the DDPD, which was boycotted by main rebel groups, saying it has been marred by lack of funding for reconstruction and the government's failure in disarming tribal militias who were used by the government to fight the insurgency.

Smith also said that the Sudanese government had shown "very little interest" in investigating the crimes committed in the region or in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudan's President Omer Al-Bashir on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide he allegedly masterminded in the region. The UN says 300,000 people may have died since the conflict erupted in 2003.

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