Sudan leaders scuffle as time runs out for peace deal

It started with a small scuffle over a confiscated bag of protest banners outside Sudan’s parliament. And it ended in confrontations between baton-wielding police and protesters on the dusty streets of Omdurman.

At the finish, once the tear gas and protests leaflets had settled, just one victor emerged — in the propaganda stakes at least — the protesters from a loose alliance between south Sudan’s dominant Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and mostly northern opposition parties.

The SPLM and opposition groups called Monday’s protest to urge north Sudan’s dominant National Congress Party (NCP) to push through a raft of reforms they see as essential to elections, now just months away in April.

The Khartoum authorities played their part perfectly, first by banning the rally, then by starting the day detaining two prominent SPLM leaders.

Tear gas was fired, protesters beaten and at least one reporter detained. Opposition supporters sent round text messages saying Yasir Arman, the SPLM’s deputy Secretary General, had been hospitalised after rough treatment in a police cell.

International groups from the United Nations to Amnesty International released statements of outrage and criticism.

A couple of hours later Arman, apparently none the worse for wear, was being carried on his supporters’ shoulders into a packed, back-slapping victory rally at an SPLM base in Khartoum. read more