Several deaths in the tertiary sector amid military clashes

A pro-democracy movement, including Sudanese universities and academics, is calling for the formation of an anti-war front in response to fighting between Sudan’s national army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that have killed dozens of civilians.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) on 15 April put the death toll in fighting over a proposed transition to civilian rule at 56 people, including students, university graduates and university staff.

The names of some of the victims have surfaced on social media platforms, including Dr Muhammad Ahmad Al-Khatim, a lecturer at Al Fashir University, Abdullah Khaled Abdullah Adam (Gedo), a student at the Sudan Academy for Aviation Sciences and Technology, Dr Alaa Fawzi Al-Mardi, a graduate of the University of Science and Technology, and Dr Najwa Khaled Hamad.

Students at the Sudan Academy for Aviation Sciences and Technology (SUDAFAST), which is located at the entrance to the International Airport of Khartoum, posted a video and photo claiming a colleague has passed away after the Rapid Support Forces allegedly attacked the academy campus and took the students hostage. The post has been deleted.

CCSD issued a statement on 16 April calling for the cessation of the violence and safe passages to evacuate detainees, the stranded, and the injured.

The Engineering Society at the University of Khartoum, in a statement, called on humanitarian organisations to evacuate about 100 people stuck in the facilities of the university since 15 April.

Power struggle

The fighting that has erupted in Sudan is believed to be as a direct result of a power struggle within the country’s military leadership, according to the BBC.

Generals have been running the country through what is called the Sovereign Council, since a coup in October 2021 that ended a period of more than two years when military and civilian leaders were sharing power. That deal came after Sudan’s long-term authoritarian president, Omar al-Bashir, was overthrown.

The RSF is under the command of the council’s vice-president General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti. The army, meanwhile, is led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who is the head of the Sovereign Council and, in effect, the country’s ruler.

Hemedti and al-Burhan disagreed about the direction the country is going in and the proposed move towards civilian rule. One of the main sticking points is over the plans to integrate RSF into the national army and the leader of the new force.

The violence on 15 April follows days of tension as members of the RSF were redeployed around the country in a move that the national army saw as a threat. It is not clear who fired the first shot.

Details about what is happening on the ground are included in posts about Sudan on Twitter.

Academic anti-war front

The Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) issued a statement on 15 April calling for a united front against the war.

The association is an umbrella group of independent professional unions, including doctors, engineers, teachers and lawyers as well as the Association of Sudanese Professors at Universities, Faculties and Higher Institutes, which led to nationwide demonstrations against al-Bashir’s rule from December 2018 until his removal from power in April 2019.

Also, the Alliance of Forces for Radical Change (AFRC) issued a statement on 15 April, saying: “It [the fighting and killing] is another crime of the military regime.

“The conflict that is now taking place between the army leaders and the RSF revolves entirely around the centre of power, and over the control of resources.”

“We call on all the revolutionary forces to form a broad and coherent front against war …”

AFRC consists of various mass organisations and trade unions, notably SPA and the Sudanese Women’s Union, which includes academics.

In addition, on 15 April, the Alliance of Professors of the University of Science and Technology (APUST) announced its condemnation of the fighting and called for its immediate stop and resorting to dialogue for peace.

Is the former regime appearing again?

However, the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), an overarching alliance of activists and opposition groups, including university staff, said in a media release on 14 April: “We see that the basis of the crisis is not between the armed forces and the Rapid Support Forces, but rather lies in the attempts of the remnants of the former regime to return to power and they are ready to drag the country towards civil war.

“We call on everyone to stand against the war and against the return of the remnants of the former regime.”

Echoing the FFC’s view, a joint statement by 55 organisations, including the Student Movement Alliance, the University of Khartoum Professors Initiative, the Alliance of Professors of Al-Neelain University, the Alliance of Professors of Omdurman Islamic University, University of Khartoum Alumni Conference and the Alliance of Sudanese University Professors’ Groups, said the former regime is reappearing and “trying to create strife”.