Schools in Sudan were suspended Wednesday after six people, including four students, were shot and killed at a demonstration in the city of Obeid. The nationwide closing will remain in effect “until further notice,” according to the state-run SUNA news agency, and is accompanied by a nightly curfew in parts of North Kordofan, the province where the shooting took place. The curfew similarly has no scheduled end.
The students were demonstrating for better living conditions and a remedy for food shortages, CNN reports. The Associated Press puts less of a fine point on it: students were “protesting the commencement of the school year amid the political uncertainty in Sudan,” according to Sudan’s UNICEF representative, Abdullah Fadil. This April saw the 30th anniversary of the demonstrations that put former president Omar al-Bashir in office, as well as his removal from the role after the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) led protests over his autocratic tendencies. The power vacuum was quickly filled by a group called the Transitional Military Council (TMC), but despite a stated willingness to negotiate, talks over returning to civilian government have stalled. In the meantime, an SPA statement said that protests and marches have served as a “safety valve” and a “way to bring culprits to justice, avenge martyrs and to ensure the transfer of power to an interim civilian government.”
Many of these protests have ended in bloodshed. Seven people were killed and almost 200 were injured at a protest dubbed the “millions march” on Sunday, and according to Al Jazeera, more than 100 activists were killed when security forces broke up a protest camp outside military headquarters on June 3. The latter attack occurred the day before Eid, the holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
According to the European Union Sanctions Map, Sudan is under exported arms, funding, and travel restrictions. However, the EU has imposed no sanctions regarding “equipment used for internal repression” (a category that includes Venezuela, a country facing similar political crisis), or on the sale of gold and other precious metals. With less ability to violently disperse political demonstration, and with increased pressure on the country’s lead export, perhaps the TMC would be more willing to negotiate a transfer of power.
In the meantime, the SPA’s protests will continue, and it is likely that the deaths will as well, as they often do when brave citizens oppose those in power. But those deaths serve a purpose – one we must help them achieve. Nonviolent protests work by bringing oppressors under the magnifying glass of the public eye and causing the oppressors to feel shame. It’s our job to react. To keep alive the names of the martyrs, to pressure their killers, to turn the eyes of the world on Sudan. With the Earth’s weight on their backs and nowhere to turn, the TMC will be forced to confront the men and the children they slaughtered in the name of power. If they have any humanity, they will listen to the demands of the people.
On Thursday – three days after the four students were shot, one day after the mass school closing was announced – protestors once again took to the streets, calling for justice for the dead. Four of them were shot with live ammunition and died.
The TMC arrested seven members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in connection with Monday’s killings. They released a statement to the SUNA news agency, claiming that the troops had responded in “an isolated manner” when they shot the students.
The alliance of protestors stands resolute. They have refused to capitulate and have demanded to postpone talks with the TMC in light of the deaths. “We cannot reach any agreement while ignoring the blood of martyrs,” said Madani Abbas Madani, a protest coalition leader.
Both marches and negotiations remain viable tactics, Madani said, as the SPA continues agitating for a democratic future.