At the University of Khartoum on Sunday, May 4, 2014, violent clashes broke out between Darfuri students and their supporters on the one hand, and pro-government students, security forces and university police on the other. The clashes continued off campus the next day, with students on both sides reportedly weilding metal bars, stones and chains, and police firing tear gas into the crowds of students. At least ten students were reportedly wounded in the clashes.
Tensions at the university had been high at least since March of 2014, when security forces opened fire on a student protest over conditions in Darfur, killing one student and injuring seven more (for more, see report here). Darfuri students have reportedly demanded an investigation into the killing, as well as a removal of security forces that have been stationed at the university gates and on campus.
Following the clashes in early May, university Chancellor, Professor Siddig Hayati resigned, protesting continuing attacks on activist students, and the government’s ongoing failure to act to contain the violence.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the escalating violence on the campus of the University of Khartoum, and calls on all sides to exercise restraint. While students have the right to free expression, that right does not extend to violence or the destruction of property; on-campus expression must be undertaken in a manner that is consistent with university values including social responsibility. Student violence creates unnecessary risks of physical harm to individuals and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy. State and university authorities, while they have a legitimate interest in maintaining order and protecting property, must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation, that respect peaceful expression, and that minimize the risk of physical injury.