11 January 2019

Sudan's Protest Crackdown 'Impacts Our Bilateral Phased Engagement' - EU Body

Photo: Sudan News Agency
Protests in Khartoum

Brussels — The European External Action Service (EEAS) has condemned the Sudanese authorities violent repression of protest, arrest of journalist and for not ensuring the right for freedom of expression of Sudanese citizens.

The statement by the European Union body was released today, following continuing reports about the crackdown of Sudanese police and security forces on the weeks-long mass demonstrations against the economic crises in Sudan.

"The response by the government of Sudan to the continuing protests in various parts of the country such as the use of force by security forces against civilians - including the use of live ammunition - has led to further casualties over the last few days. Furthermore, teargas has been reportedly used against medical personnel and patients in Omdurman hospital," the statement said.

Images on social media from Wednesday, hours after a mass anti-regime protest, show government forces entered the main hospital and shot live bullets, causing panic and chaos. Tear gas flooded operating rooms in at least two hospitals, videos show, and doctors confirmed in interviews. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch earlier reported and condemned the hard line against protesters the government is following.

According to EEAS: "We expect the Sudanese government to release all journalists, members of the opposition, human rights defenders and other protesters arbitrarily detained and to conduct a thorough investigation into recent deaths and abuses. In this context, the investigation committee announced by the Government should ensure accountability and will be closely monitored.

"Sudanese authorities are expected to ensure the right for freedom of assembly, association and expression, in accordance with international laws. All sides should exercise restraint and abstain from any further violence in order to de-escalate the situation.

"The implementation of much-needed political and economic reforms remains crucial to address grievances expressed by the population of Sudan. The actions of the government of Sudan in this respect will have an impact on our bilateral phased engagement."

Anti-migration

Engagement between the EU and Sudan, among others, includes the financial support of the Union in the country's combat against human trafficking and illegal migration. Sudan is a main source and transit country for many refugees attempting to travel to Europe. In April 2016, the EU established a development aid package for Sudan of €100 million that should tackle the root causes of instability, irregular migration and displacement in its border areas. Another €40 million was allocated to 'better manage migration' in Khartoum and an €15 million should improve the living conditions of refugees and host communities in eastern Sudan (Kassala) and Khartoum. After that, in April this year, the EU launched an initiative with Sudan to combat human trafficking and illegal migration in the region with a budget for the entire Horn of Africa of €45 million.

Troika

Also the Troika (the UK, Norway and the USA) and Canada has condemned the authorities' cracking down on protests. The alliance issued another joint statement this week including the warning that "the government of Sudan's actions and decisions over the coming weeks will have an impact on the engagement of our governments and others in the coming months and years."

Current demonstrations appear to be more widespread than previous protests

Journalists and witnesses present at the protest in Omdurman have described the demonstrations as one of the largest against President Al Bashir, who has come to power in 1989 in an Islamist-backed military coup.

Other large demonstrations took place in early 2018 and with civil disobedience actions in December 2016. In September 2013, the large and infamous fuel price protests took place in Khartoum, in which more than 200 demonstrators were killed according to Amnesty International reports.

The current protests are more widespread than those in January 2018 and September 2013. They began in outlying states and towns such as El Gedaref, El Gezira, River Nile, and Red Sea (Port Sudan), which had been left with a particularly acute shortage of flour in previous months. Bakeries in Khartoum faced the same fate. Despite the attempt to stockpile reserves, the protests spread to the capital where they grew in size.

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