Thousands march for 'justice' over Sudan student killings as talks with military set to resume

Thousands march for 'justice' over Sudan student killings as talks with military set to resume
Opposition leaders say they are close to a deal with the military despite the killing of six people marring talks earlier this week.
3 min read
01 August, 2019
Talks are set to resume on Thursday evening [AFP]

Thousands of Sudanese demonstrators rallied in the capital Khartoum and other cities on Thursday as talks were set to resume between the ruling military junta and opposition forces later that evening.

Negotiations between the two sides were stalled earlier this week when six people, including at least four school children, were shot dead by snipers at a protest in Al-Obeid, North Kordofan.

Opposition umbrella group the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC) cancelled the talks in the wake of the killings, described as a "massacre" by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the country's leading protest organiser and an influential actor in the AFC.

Thousands of Sudanese protesters have streamed into the streets across the country since Monday's shootings.

Demonstrations were particularly large in the capital Khartoum, where the SPA had earlier called for a "million-man" march for justice, on Thursday, activists said.

"Where is the investigation committee?" chanted protesters as they marched in the Burri and Bahri districts, sites of regular protests since they first erupted in December against the regime of now ousted president Omar al-Bashir.

Many carried Sudanese flags and photographs of some of those people killed in the months-long protest campaign.

Protesters also rallied in Al-Obeid, the Red Sea coastal city of Port Sudan, in White Nile state and in the central city of Madani, witnesses said.

Fresh negotiations

At the same time, talks between the military and the AFC were due to resume on Thursday evening, with opposition leaders saying major sticking points over the power-sharing agreement agreed upon earlier this month had already been resolved.

A major point of contention had been the issue of blanket immunity for the military generals.

The military had previously demanded full immunity, erasing any chance of justice for more than the more than 200 people killed by the military and security forces since the junta came to power in April. 

The AFC has agreed to grant the generals "procedural immunity", it said on Thursday, meaning that top officials could be tried with the permission of two-thirds of the legislative council.

The opposition umbrella also announced that the two parties had agreed to grant the various constituents of the AFC a 67 percent share in the legislative council.

The rest will be granted to other opposition and political groups.

"The agreement is really now just around the corner," Satea al-Hajj, an AFC leader, said on Thursday.

Laying the blame

While the military initially skirted responsibility for the killings - earlier blaming "elements" of the SPA for "forcing" school children to protest - general Jamal Omar said on Thursday that members of a feared paramilitary force had been responsible.

Members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) assigned to guarding a bank in Al-Obeid fired on the school students, Omar said.

Protesters had already accused the RSF - an officialised paramilitary offshoot of the Janjaweed militias accused of war crimes in Darfur - of the shooting.

However, Omar accused "some" students of throwing stones at the paramilitary troops.

"This made some members of the force act in their individual capacity to open fire on protesters," he said.

Seven RSF troops have been taken into custody over the shooting.

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