Sudanese students revolt against political favouritism in universities

 
 
For a little more than a week, an unprecedented student revolt has gripped Sudan University of Science and Technology, near the capital Khartoum. Angry protesters are demanding that the president of the university, seen as a government puppet who favours pro-regime students, step down.
 
Opposition marches against the government had already taken place in Khartoum in January 2011. This time, university students are taking the lead, organizing sit-ins and rallies on Sudan University’s campuses.
 
The university is made up of twenty colleges located on eight different sites in the province of Al Khartoum, in central Sudan.
 
Students protest against university politics. The students are chanting: “This is a free university! Soldiers, out!”

“Pro-regime students know they are above the law, so they rule campus armed with sticks and even knives”

Agaa Mamado is 22 years old. A mechanical engineering student at the University of Sudan, he has been recording the protest movement with his cameras.
 
The protests began on May 17. Students were sick of the political divides on campus, and the favouritism showed toward those within the university who support the regime.
 
The ruling party is very active within the university’s administration. In fact, the president of the university’s board is none other than the country’s current oil minister, Awad al-Jaz. Students who are politically unaffiliated, or those who are affiliated with other political parties, are harassed by security forces on the university campus. They are subjected to actual interrogations. Meanwhile, members of the pro-regime Student Union have many advantages. They know they are above the law, so they rule campus armed with sticks and even knives. They can be violent without being punished, and campus security is complicit.
 
Eight months ago, students close to the opposition decided to take revenge. They destroyed a little building occupied by students faithful to the government. This building was called the "ant hill" by other students because it was so narrow and cramped. In it, students found knives, batons and even guns. They ended up ransacking the building and setting it on fire. A few weeks later, authorities had rebuilt it and constructed a little military building across the street from it, with guards to protect the pro-government students.
 
In recent weeks, tensions have only gotten worse. Some students organized themselves into a union called “Student Unity” to defend their freedom of expression. They told the administration about their grievances but their complaints fell on deaf ears. Since then, students have begun organizing rallies and sit-ins. In response, the university director ordered the north and south campus sites to be shut down, and called in riot police to evacuate the buildings by force.
 
Policeman blocking the entrance of the university. Photo taken by our Observer. 
 
Only the west branch of the university, which houses the administration, remains open. Students often go protest in front of the university director’s office, and their demands grow more radical by the day. They are now asking for him to step down, and for future presidents to be elected by professors rather than nominated by the Sudanese head of state. They want the removal of any military presence in and around the university, and for university funding to be used exclusively for educational purposes, rather than being reserved for for pro-regime student housing.
 
 
France 24 contacted the university administration to hear the president’s version of events. We were told that officials were "not available" to discuss the matter. The university’s director of public relations confirmed that the north and south buildings had been shut down due to student protests, but refused to comment further.
 
A sit-in held in front of the university director's office. The students chant, "Students want the director to leave. "
 
Two students holding signs reading, on the left, "Students want the director to leave" and "Students want the director to be fired". Photo taken by our Observer.
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