Academics join call for civil disobedience after crackdown

Sudanese universities and academics have supported the call for civil disobedience in response to an early-morning crackdown on anti-government protesters on 3 June that resulted in several deaths and injuries.

According to Amnesty International, at around 4.30 am on 3 June, “armed forces under the command of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) attacked peaceful protesters in Khartoum State, firing live bullets and tear gas, setting tents on fire and beating protesters”.

It called on the international community to consider all forms of peaceful pressure, including targeted sanctions, on those members of the Sudanese transitional authorities responsible for the attack on what it said were “sleeping protesters”.

The protesters have been calling for a handover of power to civilians after the ouster of former Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir in April and have been staging a long-standing sit-in outside the defence ministry headquarters in Khartoum.

Three days after the latest attack, the Sudan Tribune reported that the Peace and Security Council of the African Union had suspended Sudan’s membership and threatened to impose sanctions on members of the transitional council if they fail to hand over power to a civilian-led authority.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors has put the death toll from the military crackdown on protesters at well over 100 since the military council assumed power. More than 500 have been injured, it said.

Academics in support of campaign

In a statement in response to the attack, the University of Khartoum Teaching Staff Initiative (UKTSI) called for a civil disobedience campaign.

"We call upon the forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change to declare a comprehensive civil disobedience to bring down the TMC and complete our revolution,” it said.

The Declaration of Freedom and Change is an umbrella alliance of activists and opposition groups, including university staff, Congress of University of Khartoum Alumni and the Sudanese Professionals Association, which has spearheaded the protests over the past six months that led to al-Bashir’s ouster.

The UKTSI statement said: "This escalation of the military junta is a dangerous indicator that confirms the dictatorship of this council … There is no justification for this barbarism. The Sudanese revolution is still peaceful and all parties are still moving towards a political solution.

"The people have no choice but to fight against it and to go out into the streets … and to protect the revolution and our dignity.”

On its official Facebook page, the Association of Sudanese Professors at Universities, Faculties and Higher Institutes (ASPUFI) issued a statement in which it affirmed its commitment to the civil disobedience campaign that started on 7 June.

"As an extension of our previous statement on 31 May … today we declare … that we will not resume university study if the Transitional Military Council does not acknowledge full responsibility for the 3 June massacre and unconditional acceptance of full power to civilians," the ASPUFI statement said.

Academics’ demands

The 31 May ASPUFI statement calls inter alia for an “appropriate climate” in universities before they are actually opened.

Among other demands are the following:

  • • All professors and students who were dismissed because of their political affiliation should be allowed to return to their universities;

  • • University police should be replaced with university guards;

  • • The dismissal of university managers and their deputies as well as senior administrative staff along with their present boards;

  • • Dismantling of jihadist units among students;

  • • Preparation of alternative democratic laws for running higher education and universities that establish independence, institutionalism and democracy;

  • • Dissolution of the National Student Support Fund; and

  • • Democratisation of student unions.

  • • Monitoring all violations and grievances against professors and students and bringing those at fault to justice.

The ruling military council in Sudan reportedly denied it used force to end the sit-in and blamed outlaws from a nearby neighbourhood known as ‘Colombia’.

International solidarity

In a statement of solidarity with the Sudanese Professionals Association, the Professional Staff Congress, the trade union of faculty and professional staff at the City University of New York in the United States, said: "We condemn the violence against Sudanese demonstrators, and the government attacks on students, teachers and doctors, and support their rights to protest and organise without fear of repression.

"In this, we join with such expression of support as the statement by our international teachers' union umbrella, Education International, and resolution of solidarity by the union of British academics, the University and College Union.