Sudan talks cancelled as al-Burhan condemns teenagers’ killing

Sudan‘s military ruler has condemned the killing of five schoolchildren at a rally as protest leaders called off planned talks with the generals and thousands of students took to the streets to denounce the latest bout of violence.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of Sudan’s ruling military council, told reporters on Tuesday that the killings in the North Kordofan city of El-Obeid was “unacceptable”.

“What happened in El-Obeid is a regrettable and upsetting matter and the killing of peaceful citizens is unacceptable and rejected and a crime that requires immediate and deterrent accountability,” he was quoted as saying by the official SUNA news agency. 

Protesters accuse the feared Rapid Support Forces (RSF), headed by al-Burhan’s deputy, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, of shooting dead the five teenagers at Monday’s rally against shortages of bread and fuel. 

The UN children’s agency UNICEF, in a statement on Tuesday, called on Sudanese authorities “to investigate and hold all perpetrators of violence against children accountable”.

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

Four students killed in El-Obeid ‘massacre’: Sudan opposition

The killings came ahead of planned talks between the ruling Transitional Military Council and protest leaders on the remaining aspects of installing civilian rule following the toppling of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in April. 

The two sides had inked a power sharing agreement on July 17, and were to sit down on Tuesday to discuss the powers of the joint civilian-military ruling council and immunity for generals over previous violence against protesters. 

Talks cancelled

But negotiators for the Forces of Freedom and Change, the umbrella group that represents protest and opposition groups, told AFP news agency that Tuesday’s talks would not take place because they were visiting El-Obeid. 

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

Meanwhile, thousands of students – heeding a call for nationwide protests against the El-Obeid “massacre” by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) – rallied in Khartoum and other cities to condemn the violence against their fellow students. 

The SPA, which spearheaded the protests against al-Bashir, had also called on all schools in North Kordofan state to suspend classes. 

Sudan protesters reject prosecutor’s report into June sit-in raid (3:12)

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Addis Ababa in neighbouring Ethiopia, said that there was a lot of anger and condemnation on the streets of the capital, Khartoum, due to the renewed violence in El-Obeid.

“But [the protesters] are also condemning the silence of the opposition coalition Forces of Freedom and Change. The opposition coalition is largely regarded to be the ones representing the protesters in the top of the transitional government with the Transitional Military Council,” Morgan said.

“The protesters are saying that these talks have not wielded any results and that they’ve been going on for three months since former president Omar al-Bashir was ousted and there has been no results yet.  

“In fact they say there has been more violence, more deaths… People are saying that at the moment, negotiations is not the way and that what the opposition should focus on is demanding justice and accountability.”

Sudanese students wave national flags as they protest in the capital Khartoum on July 30, 2019, a day after teenagers were shot at a rally against shortages of bread and fuel in the town of al-Obeid,

Thousands of students rallied to condemn the violence against their fellow students [Ebrahim Hamid/AFP]

Protester killings

Earlier on Tuesday, a prominent protest leader had called for the talks to be suspended.

“We cannot sit at the negotiating table with those allowing the killing of revolutionaries,” Siddig Youssef said in a statement.

Doctors linked to the protest movement say that more than 250 people have been killed in protest-related violence since December when demonstrations first erupted against al-Bashir. More than 100 were killed during and after an RSF raid on a sit-in outside the military headquarters on June 3, they said. 

But a joint investigation by prosecutors and the ruling military council concluded that just 17 people were killed on June 3, with a total of 87 deaths between that day and June 10.

Protest leaders have rejected the findings, saying the inquiry exonerated the military council and gave a far lower death toll than their own.

The investigation “was commissioned by the military council… [but] the military council itself is accused in this case”, the SPA said.

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