El Obeid — The acting governor of North Kordofan ordered a curfew in the capital El Obeid and three other towns in the state on Monday. The state Security Committee suspended classes in basic and secondary schools for an indefinite period of time.
The governor imposed the curfew from 9 pm to 6 am in El Obeid, Bara, El Rahad and Um Rawaba "until further notice" after militiamen of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) reportedly shot at secondary school students and activists staging a sponteanous demonstration in El Obeid on Monday morning.
Four secondary school students and an activist* were killed instantly. Between 40 and 50 protesters were injured, eight of them seriously. They were undergoing major operations at the hospital yesterday afternoon.
The spokesman for the opposition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) in El Obeid, lawyer Osman Saleh, told Radio Dabanga yesterday that school students and activists went out in spontaneous protests on Sunday and Monday, ostensibly against the stoppage of public transport due to fuel shortages, drinking water outages, increasing commodity prices, and a continuing bread crisis.
Saleh held the RSF responsible for the killing. "They fired heavily at the unarmed students. This is more than inhumane."
He said that eyewitnesses saw RSF militiamen stationed in front of the French-Sudanese Bank in El Obeid, shooting heavily at the students. "No police or army forces were seen in the vicinity of the shooting."
The lawyer described the situation in the North Kordofan capital on Monday afternoon as "explosive.
"The entire city is boiling with anger. Many people, old and young, went out to the streets and warned the governor that imposing more repressive measures will lead to the escalation of the situation," he said. "The declaration of the State of Emergency already will be answered by more protests against the oppression of the people, by bullets or by decrees."
He explained that immediately after the attack FFC leaders went to meet with the acting governor and the head of the security committee in the city. They held the security committee responsible for the dead and wounded, and called for the formation of a joint state-FFC investigation committee into "the massacre". In addition, the RSF troops based on the main streets and in the various neighbourhoods of El Obeid are to leave.
The governor promised to respond to these demands within two days.
Rumours say that the shooting intended to create chaos and violent reactions in order to disrupt the negotiations between the ruling Transitional Military Council and the FFC, and the process of ceding power to civilians.
"The protesters' demands may exceed those of the FFC if repression is intensified" - FFC spokesman
Saleh could not confirm these rumours but said that "What happened were not individual actions of RSF members who may have broken orders and began to shoot. There appear to be orders priory issued to react violently and use live ammunition against protesters".
He added that protests in El Obeid will escalate. "The people will now demand the junta to hand over power to civilians immediately without completing negotiations with them. Their demands may exceed those of the FFC if repression is intensified in the city."
Bread and transport
In a statement on Monday, the FFC said that "this brutality came in response to peaceful demonstrations asking for the simplest aspects of their daily lives: The availability of bread and transport to bring them to their schools".
The opposition coalition emphasised "the right of every Sudanese to demonstrate, assemble, and hold sit-ins in the streets" and called for "prosecution of the people responsible for the killings in a fair trial by a neutral judge, and not by judges and public prosecutors related to the old regime".
The FFC called on "all revolutionaries" in the country "to take to the streets everywhere and march for our revolutionary demands, which are first and foremost to immediately transfer power to civilians, to form an interim government that brings all perpetrators of crimes against the Sudanese to justice, and establish a state of justice and peace".
The negotiation team of the FFC has suspended negotiations with the junta concerning the text of the Constitutional Declaration. The talks were scheduled to resume today.
* Initially, sources in El Obeid reported that five school students were killed.