Academics freed as fresh anti-government protests planned

Sudanese authorities on Monday released all University of Khartoum academics arrested and held overnight for their part in ongoing anti-government protests that have claimed the lives of several Sudanese, including at least five students, and shut down higher education institutions.

The release of the academics – believed to number at least eight – precedes Wednesday’s planned march organised by the Sudanese Professionals' Association (SPA), an umbrella group of independent professional unions, to the National Assembly.

On 30 December 2018, academics at Khartoum University issued a statement calling for the “unconditional step down of Sudan's president Omar Al-Bashir, the dissolution of his government and the handover of power to an agreed transitional government formed from all Sudan's walks of life, to help get the country out of this crisis and pave the way for the establishment of free and fair elections to choose who can lead the country".

On 5 January, a group of academics from the University of Gezira also issued a statement calling for the release of detainees, respect for human rights, an end to violence against peaceful demonstrators and a decent life for the Sudanese people.

Wednesday's march called by the SPA is a continuation of the two-week nationwide protests sparked on 19 December by a government decision to increase the price of bread.

The SPA statement specifically welcomed the participation of academics from Khartoum University in the revolution.

In support of today's march, a group of professors at Al-Neelain University in Khartoum issued a statementcalling for the academic community to hold a peaceful solidarity protest in front of the institution's Faculty of Arts and Law.

Students under pressure

In the face of mounting political pressure on students, a student union has warned the country’ political groupings that students will not be used as fuel for political point-scoring and have stressed the importance of preserving the country’s resources and institutions.

On 22 December 2018, the General Union of Sudanese Students (GUSS) launched an initiative called "Students against subversion”, which aims, according to GUSS president Ammar Alaa-Eldin, to "make everyone aware of the importance of preserving the resources and institutions of the homeland and not to sabotage and attack it, as it is owned by Sudanese people and not by any political entity that is trying to exploit these situations in sabotage activity to destabilise the country and to create chaos and violation of the law".

Alaa-Eldin called on all students and society to contribute to the development and renaissance of Sudan, and to face all the saboteurs. He announced the running of a number of student convoys to build and reconstruct the service institutions that were burned by the demonstrators.

On 26 December, the Union of Democratic Federal Students issued a statement declaring its full solidarity with the students of Darfur states at the University of Sinnar, who were reportedly abducted by security forces who accused them of being dormant cells of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), an armed opposition group in the western region of Darfur seeking national reform and regime change.

"This claim is fundamentally false but this is the habit of dictatorship systems to use foreign conspiracies as a way to justify their failure," the statement said.

On 29 December, the Conference of Independent Students (CIS), the student arm of the opposition Sudanese Congress Party, issued a statement on the arrest of several CIS student members accused of planning sabotage operations and killing demonstrators.

"These arrested students are political activists in peaceful student work and have absolutely nothing to do with armed action or violence," the statement said.

Foreign students

The civil unrest has promoted safety concerns for the more than 50,000 foreign students from 49 countries studying at Sudanese universities.

“The Malaysian Embassy in Sudan continues to take precautionary measures and advised Malaysian students to return home as universities are closed,” Malaysia's ministry of education said in a 4 January statement.

The Malaysian embassy also cautioned Malaysian students not to participate in political gatherings and to stay away from public places.

A spokesman for the Egyptian ministry of higher education said the Sudanese minister of education had confirmed that Egyptian students in Sudan were safe, and promised that universities will open soon, according to a 7 January news report.