Statement of the African Studies Association Concerning Freedom of Expression in Sudan
The African Studies Association—the leading organization of its kind, representing the interests of 2,000 scholars of Africa—condemns in the strongest terms the violent and deadly reaction of the Government of Sudan to the peaceful protests in that country, which have been taking place on a daily basis since December 2018. These recent protests express Sudanese citizens’ discontent with the regime of Omar a-lBashir, who has ruled Sudan for 30 years. The Bashir government is now struggling to hold on to power by making arbitrary arrests, torturing opponents, and adopting a shoot-to-kill policy of unarmed youths in the streets of the country (1). According to some reports over 50 people have died in the government’s ongoing campaign against citizen protesters.
The ASA supports the efforts of Sudanese academics to bring these violations to international attention. In early January members of the University of Khartoum’s faculty were detained in order to prevent them from participating in the ongoing protests, a violation of their right to freedom of expression (2). Despite the government’s attempts to suppress their political voice, faculty and students at the University of Khartoum staged a sit-in on 30 January 2019 that attracted the support of over three hundred university staff (3). The protestors denounced the ‘killing of demonstrators and the excessive use of violence against them’ and called for free and open elections in a democratic regime. At least 14 scholars were subsequently arrested by the police (4). On February 1st a teacher in the town of Khashm Algriba, in eastern Sudan, was detained and tortured to death by officers from Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (5). On February 12th another demonstration was held at the University of Khartoum; eyewitnesses estimate that 16 professors were arrested (6). Similarly, more than 70 journalists have been arrested merely for practicing their craft, and dozens of foreign correspondents and researchers have been expelled from the country (7).
The African Studies Association stands in solidarity with its academic colleagues in Sudan. The Association also calls on the government of the United States, the European Union, the African Union, and the United Nations to investigate the unlawful killing, arrest, and detention of peaceful protesters in the Sudan and to facilitate the restoration of human rights. We also call on our governments to protect the freedom of expression and communications in Sudan. We believe that the crisis in Sudan can only be resolved through peaceful dialogue that leads to democratic reforms in the country.