Khartoum — Sudanese security authorities arrested the chairman of the opposition coalition National Consensus Forces (NCF), Farouq Abu Issa, following his participation on Thursday in a forum held to protest the alleged murder of four students from the country's western region of Darfur.
In his address to the event that was held at the headquarters of the National Umma Party (NUP) in Omdurman, Abu Issa strongly criticized the government over the death of the students on 7 December, and demanded an immediate and urgent investigation into the incident that occurred at Al-Gazira University in Madani town, where the victims' bodies were found in a canal after they were attacked by security forces and loyalists of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).
Activists say the students were killed against the background of their participation in protests against the refusal of the university's administration to waive the tuition fees of Darfuri students as arguably agreed under the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD).
The incident sparked a wave of demonstrations across Sudanese universities and a heavy crackdown by the authorities which arrested dozens of protesters.
The opposition figure said that the "dawn of change" is nearing and that the regime is increasingly losing control of the situation. He also said that the NCF intends to hold a big event to discuss the issue of the conflict- plagued Darfur "so we don't hit the secession wall again" in reference to South Sudan. He further accused the NCP of seeking to divide and fragment the country.
A spokesperson for Darfur Students Association announced during the symposium that thousands of students are ready to take to the streets and remove the regime of the NCP which "exacerbates ethnic tendencies"
Earlier on Tuesday, Abu Issa participated in a sit-in at the headquarters of the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP) to protest the death of the citizens. He also held a press conference in which he called for another sit-in to be held at Khartoum University the following day but the protest did not take place due to the heavy presence of security authorities around the university.
The leader of the NCF, a coalition comprising mainstream opposition parties including the NUP and the Islamist Popular Congress Party (PCP), was briefly detained in October by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) which accused him of seeking foreign assistance to fund opposition activities, a charge he denies.
Al-Mahdi angers protesters
Hundreds of students attended the symposium held at the NUP headquarters and performed prayers for the souls of the victims. They shouted slogans calling for retribution and mass protests all over the city to topple the regime.
But they were angered by the fact that NUP leader Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi exited the event shortly after he led the prayer and without addressing the crowd despite the presence of other opposition figures like Abu Issa and PCP's political secretary Kamal Omar.
Speaking to Sudan Tribune, many attendants of the symposium expressed disapproval at the refusal of Al-Mahdi to address the angry protesters saying that his behavior gives negative indications especially in light of what they described as his unclear positions on opposition calls for regime change.
A well placed source told Sudan Tribune that sectarian parties like the NUP tend to deescalate anti-regime rhetoric at times of genuine mobilization in order to advance their own agendas with the NCP.