Sudan’s Schools Shut Following Student Killings

All schools in Sudan have been suspended indefinitely by the Transitional Military Council following a horrific shooting at a student protest this week. On Monday, July 29, a protest involving high school students in the Sudanese city of El-Obeid went horribly wrong when security forces killed five demonstrators at a rally. Four of them were schoolchildren, and a sixth victim passed away later at a hospital after being “shot with a bullet in the head.”

The protest was part of several mass demonstrations protesting the rising cost of living in the capital of the North Kordofan state. The students were protesting specifically against the fuel and bread shortages that they face when snipers and other gunmen opened fire. Alongside the six deaths, an estimated 62 people were wounded during the shooting spree. The feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Janjaweed militia is accused of carrying out the attack against demonstrators. Since the disaster, a state of emergency has been declared and a night-time curfew has been set by authorities.

Following the students’ funerals, hundreds of schoolchildren in El-Obeid broke out in protest, many dressed in school uniforms and waving Sudanese flags. They chanted “killing a student is killing a nation” as they took to the streets. Similar protests broke out across all of Sudan, in other parts of the capital and in other cities, with children demanding justice for the attack. The opposition blames the ruling military council for the deaths of the demonstrators. These nation-wide protests led to authorities responding by closing all schools for all age groups. “Orders have been given to governors of all states to shut kindergartens, primary and high schools from tomorrow (Wednesday) until further notice,” the official Suna news agency reported.

The schoolchildren killings followed a power-sharing deal between protest leaders and Sudan’s ruling generals agreed upon on July 27 that would establish a new governing body of six civilians and five generals, following the removal of former leader Omar al-Bashir. Talks between both parties were supposed to occur Tuesday, a day after the attacks, but the meeting was called off following the shootings. Tensions were already high in El-Obeid following the Saturday publication of the findings of a military-commissioned investigation into a raid on a Khartoum protest camp on June 3. Since that day, Khartoum has faced angry demonstrations. Doctors say the raid by gunmen left 127 people dead and dozens wounded, however, protest leaders rejected these numbers and claimed that only 17 people were killed that day.

UNICEF has condemned the attacks, calling on authorities to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice. In a statement, they said that the students who died were between the ages of 15 and 17 and added that “no child should be buried in their school uniform.” The Forces of Freedom and Change coalition issued a statement that called for the attackers to be brought to justice and urged the ruling military council to immediately agree on the details of their new governing body. “Forces belonging to the army and Rapid Support (paramilitary force) indiscriminately and violently fired this afternoon at peaceful demonstrations of secondary school students in El-Obeid. Only a civilian authority is capable of carrying out independent investigations into all crimes,” the coalition said in a statement.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the chairman of Sudan’s military council, also condemned the killings, telling journalists that “what happened in El-Obeid is sad. Killing peaceful civilians is an unacceptable crime that needs immediate accountability.” The attack on schoolchildren in Sudan cannot go ignored and there must be an independent investigation in order to bring the assailants to justice.

Hallie Kielb