Sudan: Mediation efforts fail to resolve Darfur student crisis

Sudan: Mediation efforts fail to resolve Darfur student crisis
Mediation committees from White Nile state and Khartoum have failed to solve the crisis concerning the collective resignation of hundreds of Darfuri students from the Bakht El Rida University.
2 min read
24 July, 2017
The Darfur conflict has displaced more than 2.5 million people [AFP]

Mediation efforts by the Sudanese government and other parties have failed to reverse the collective resignation of Darfuri students from the Bakht al-Rida University in the White Nile state.

Hundreds of Darfuri students were blockaded in the village of al-Yagout on the southern edge of the capital Khartoum last week after they were stopped by National Intelligence Security Service (NISS) agents from delivering a statement listing their demands to the government.

"These students only want to present a petition to their leaders, but instead of helping and protecting them, the NISS have chosen to block them, in callous disregard of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly," Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International's Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said last week.

"Instead of stopping them, the authorities should protect them and ensure that their grievances are heard."

Their demands included the readmission of 14 expelled students and halting the prosecution of ten others accused of killing two policemen two months ago.

In May, police forces in the White Nile town of al-Duweim violently dispersed clashes between student members of Sudan's ruling party and opposition students over a disputed guild election at the Bakht el Rida University.

Two policemen were killed, while several Darfuri students were arrested.

More than 1,000 students have since resigned, accusing security forces and the university's administration of "racial targeting".

Student representatives and a committee of White Nile state, including members of the Bakht al-Rida administration, were unsuccessful in reaching an agreement about the readmission of dismissed students.

On Thursday, NISS officials arrived in al-Yagout and gave the students a 24-hour ultimatum to leave the village and return to their residences or return to their home region of Darfur, according to local media.

On Friday, the authorities halted food and aid deliveries to the stranded students and ordered the nearby market shops to be closed.

Although Khartoum insists that the conflict in Darfur has ended, parts of the region have been destabilised by fighting between myriad ethnic and tribal groups.

The UN and the African Union maintain that the Darfur conflict is winding down, and their peacekeeping mission - among the costliest with a budget of more than $1 billion - is being trimmed.

The Darfur conflict erupted in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against President Omar al-Bashir's Arab-dominated government, accusing it of marginalising the region.

Since then, more than 2.5 million people have been displaced and 300,000 killed, the UN says.