Most universities in Sudan will resume work in the next few weeks out of concern for the effect the latest closures are having on students, but professors and students say they will continue to protest against army interference in the country’s transition to democracy.
Higher education institutions across Sudan stopped work in the wake of a coup on October 25, when Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan’s forces overthrew the civilian government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The two parties agreed on November 21 that Hamdok would be reinstated until elections can be held in July 2023, but protests have continued. (See a related article, “Sudanese Academics Join Protests of the Overthrow of Civilian Rule”.)
Earlier protests against the army’s actions led to injuries and deaths as security forces and anti-coup protesters clashed.
Sudan’s Central Committee of Doctors said 44 civilians had been killed in the protests, including at least five students.
Disruptions of Studies
Sudan’s universities have faced repeated disruptions in recent years. The government closed all universities in 2019 during the protests that led to the ouster of former President Omar al-Bashir. Since then, studies have been interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, devasting floods, and continuing political turmoil.
“We have very strong reservations about the agreement between the military council and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, but we decided to resume work for the students.”Manal Amer
Head of the professors’ syndicate at the University of Khartoum
Manal Amer, head of the professors’ syndicate at the University of Khartoum, said some medical students had studied for nine years without being able to graduate.
She told Al-Fanar Media: “We have very strong reservations about the agreement between the military council and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, but we decided to resume work for the students.”
Amer said the professors were neither for nor against the power-sharing agreement that restored Hamdok to office, because it left many details unclear. “How long will the transitional period last?” she asked. “The first transitional period was aborted by the military. … University professors fear that democratic elections are not a priority.”
However, the Sudanese University and Higher Institutes Association has rejected the agreement as “an attempt to legitimise the recent measures taken by the army.” It pledged to “continue the protests until the full civilian rule is achieved.”
Intisar Al-Zein Saghiroun, the minister of higher education and scientific research, along with 11 ministers from the “Forces of Freedom and Change” coalition, resigned after the decision to dissolve the earlier government. In an official statement, they said that the power-sharing agreement “consecrates and legitimises the military coup.”
Statements and Resignations
In an official statement issued on November 22, the heads of the councils of 12 Sudanese government universities also rejected the agreement.
They wrote: “We, the undersigned, declare our rejection of this agreement, which establishes the military coup and supports the revolutionaries. We affirm our stand with the free and proud Sudanese street, of which we are honored to be an integral part.”
The statement is signed by the council presidents of the University of Khartoum, the Sudan University of Science and Technology, the University of Gezira, Al Neelain University, the University of Dongola, the University of El Imam El Mahdi, the University of East Kordofan, the University of Bakhtalruda, Alzaiem Alazhari University, Al-Batana University, the University of Zalingei, and the University of Nyala.
Muhammad Abd al-Salam, a professor of engineering at the University of East Kordofan, said: “We were looking forward to the military leaving power and giving the civil forces an opportunity to reshape political life, but the agreement was disappointing. It restored legitimacy to the military and granted inadequate power to Hamdok, which we completely reject.”
“The agreement was disappointing. It restored legitimacy to the military and granted inadequate power to Hamdok, which we completely reject.”Muhammad Abd al-Salam
A professor of engineering at the University of East Kordofan
Meanwhile, two university administrators resigned in protest of the agreement. Mohamed El-Amin Ahmed Mohamed, director of Al Neelain University, announced his resignation in a letter to Hamdok. He wrote: “Now, after your appointment by the coup leadership in what is called the political agreement, I no longer have the honour to work with you.”
Fadwa Abdel Rahman, vice chancellor of the University of Khartoum, also announced her resignation. In a statement dated November 21, she wrote: “My resignation comes in protest against the assault on students in the Al-Wasat compound (at University of Khartoum), after forces in military uniform violated the campus.”
However, she later retracted her resignation when faculty members demanded her return to organise the resumption of students’ courses.
Peaceful Protests Continue
Zainab Al-Hawari, a third-year chemistry student at Al Neelain University, said it was hard to bear that students had been killed or injured in the protests. She told Al-Fanar Media that she saw the need to return to study, but without giving up peaceful protests.
The University of Khartoum’s professors’ initiative also rejected the power-sharing agreement and supported peaceful protests against it “to achieve the goals of the revolution.”
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Protests also continued at the Universities of Shendi, Al Fashir and Bahri.
The five students known to have been killed in the protests were identified as Othman Mohamed, from Al Neelain University’s Faculty of Science and Technology; Muhammad Adam Haroun and Sett Al-Nafour Ahmed Bakour, from the College of Nursing; and Muhammad Anwar Al-Siddiq Abdullah and Louay Taj Asir, graduates of the College of Education.
- “Sudan Shutters All Its Universities”.
- “Sudan’s Academic Year Begins—but Only for a Few Universities”.
- “Sudan’s Floods Destroy Schools and Dreams”.
- “Floods, Locusts, and Covid-19: Somali Students and Universities Struggle”.