Sudanese students union-Pakistan protest
outside the press club in Hyderabad, Pakistan,
March 21, 2011 (Demotix Images)
The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) on Monday accused students loyal to Darfur rebel groups of working on mobilizing people to stage demonstrations that would lead to removing the government in a manner similar to uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.
The NCP deputy chairman in Khartoum state Mandoor Al-Mahdi told reporters that "sleeping cells" belonging to Darfur armed movements in the capital are planning to engage in military conflict starting from Omdurman Ahliya university and Omdurman Islamic university.
Al-Mahdi added that they have credible intel showing that members from the Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in universities want to stage protests and burn gas stations in Omdurman to encourage people to demonstrate.
The NCP official further alleged that unspecified foreign circles are supporting Sudanese youth groups on Facebook that are calling for regime change adding that it is also receiving the backing of the opposition parties such as the communist party, Popular Congress Party, Sudan People Liberation Movement, head of opposition alliance Farouk Abu Eissa and communist figure Sideeg Youssef.
He expressed confidence that this plan will not work as it is "illogical" and doomed to fail. Al-Mahdi further stressed that the NCP is committed to political and media freedoms and called on opposition parties to seek permission to demonstrate rather than simply notifying the authorities.
The official also revealed that his party will conduct a nationwide dialogue with the political powers on the new constitution and broad-based governments in preparation for the South’s breakup next July. However he ruled out any compromise on the adoption of Islamic Sharia’a law.
This comes as several small demonstrations took place in different parts of North Sudan in response to Facebook group calls.
The protests calling for change led to the blocking of Khartoum-Madani highway while others burned tires in Wad-Madani’s bus station. Students from Al-Jezira university and Madani collage gathered at a bus stop chanting slogans against the government and demanding change before being dispersed by riot police which also arrested around 10 of them.
In Sennar university police clashed with demonstrators until they were rounded up and taken into custody. The Sudanese capital witnessed heavy police presence since early morning hours in city centers and around university campuses. According to witnesses they also broke up protests near Khartoum stadium.
Pro-government students at a rally at Khartoum University labeled those trying to organize the demonstrations "atheists" and agents of the United States and Israel.
Witnesses also reported a large security deployment in the centre of El-Obeid, a city around 600 kilometres (370 miles) west of Khartoum, with police trucks surrounding the university.
Tensions are mounting in Sudan as the country heads towards a split amid growing economic problems that lead to rising cost of living for the ordinary citizens in a country where most of the population live below poverty levels.
There have been several attempts to stage mass demonstrations but so far the turnout has been minimal.
Activists said the protesters failed to mobilize because of security fears and the movement’s lack of organization.
"It is because of the police presence, and because people are afraid of the national security attacking them," said Mohammed, 24, an activist who was arrested at one of the protests in January to Agence France Presse (AFP).
"Also there is no leadership. It is not an organized group," he added.
The NCP said its leader president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir will not run for another term after 2015 which would mark 26 since he took power in a bloodless coup. Pressure is mounting from within the ruling party to make reforms and address corruption problem which many observers say have reached epidemic levels.
Bashir is currently the only sitting heard of state wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his alleged role in the Darfur war crimes. This has restricted his travel to few friendly nations while many others have declined to receive him prompting shy domestic calls for him to step down.
But many analysts believe that any attempt to stage reforms will meet resistance from the old guard within the NCP who have frequently asserted that they have the backing of most of the Sudanese people.