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Sudan talks cancelled as teenagers’ killing triggers outrage

Updated July 31, 2019

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Khartoum: Students protest in the Sudanese capital on Tuesday, a day after four teenagers were shot dead at a rally in Al Obeid, a town about 400 kilometres southwest of the capital. — AFP
Khartoum: Students protest in the Sudanese capital on Tuesday, a day after four teenagers were shot dead at a rally in Al Obeid, a town about 400 kilometres southwest of the capital. — AFP

KHARTOUM: Sudanese protest leaders cancelled planned talks with the country’s ruling generals on Tuesday as hundreds of schoolchildren demonstrated in Khartoum against the shooting dead of five pupils at a rally.

Read: Four students shot dead at Sudan rally ahead of talks

“Killing a student is killing a nation,” chanted crowds of schoolchildren, dressed in their uniforms and waving Sudanese flags, in the capital’s eastern district of Burri.

Sporadic protests by schoolchildren were also held in other parts of the capital.

Demonstrators accused feared paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces of shooting dead the five teenagers on Monday in the central town of Al-Obeid at a rally against shortages of bread and fuel.

The killings came a day before protest leaders were due to hold talks with generals on the remaining aspects of installing civilian rule after the two sides inked a power-sharing deal earlier this month. But three protest leaders said the dialogue would not take place as planned.

“There will be no negotiations today as we are still in Al-Obeid,” Taha Osman, a negotiator from the protest movement, said.

“There will be no negotiation today with the Transitional Military Council as our negotiating team is still in Al-Obeid and will return only tonight,” a second negotiator, Satea al-Haj, said.

Another protest leader said that talks would resume after “calm returns to the streets as dialogue was the only way to break the overall political impasse”.

The chairman of Sudan’s ruling military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, condemned the killings.

“What happened in Al-Obeid is sad. Killing peaceful civilians is an unacceptable crime that needs immediate accountability,” the chairman of Sudan’s ruling military council told journalists, according to state television.

The UN children’s agency Unicef called on the authorities “to investigate” the killings and hold the perpetrators accountable.

“No child should be buried in their school uniform,” Unicef said, adding that the pupils killed were between 15 and 17 years old.

Authorities announced a night-time curfew in four towns in North Kordofan state following the deaths in Al-Obeid, as the main protest group, the Sudanese Professionals Association, called for nationwide rallies against the “massacre”.

All schools in the state have been told to suspend classes.

“The Janjaweed forces and some snipers, without any mercy, confronted school students with live ammunition,” the SPA said, referring to the RSF which has its origins in Arab militias that were originally deployed to suppress an ethnic minority rebellion that erupted in Sudan’s western region of Darfur in 2003.

The SPA said more than 60 people were wounded in Al-Obeid.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2019