South Darfur’s unrest escalates

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January 25, 2012 (KHARTOUM) - Demonstrations in the capital of South Darfur State, Nyala, continued on Wednesday amid reports of casualties and arson.

The protests, which erupted on Tuesday as the state’s new governor Ismail Hamad arrived in the town to assume his position, faced increased crackdown on their second day as police forces heavily fired teargas to break up the demonstrators.

According to Sudan Tribune’s sources, the protestors are demonstrating against the appointment of the new governor and in favor of reinstating his predecessor, Abdul Hamid Musa Kasha.

At least three people were killed in the continued demonstration on Wednesday, Sudan Tribune was told.

The protestors, who were chanting “the people want Kasha back”, set on fire the headquarters of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the town and the office of North Nyala locality.

Kasha was relieved from his position on 10 January and given the governorship office of East Darfur State which was created on the same day as part of decrees by Sudan’s President Omer Al-Bashir.

Al-Bashir’s decrees, which are part of the Doha Peace Agreement signed in mid-July last year between the government and one rebel group in a bid to end the conflict in the western region, increased the number of states in Darfur to five by creating East Darfur and Central Darfur States.

The decrees also appointed new governors and reshuffled the already existing ones.

Ex-governor Kasha, who was elected to his position in April 2010 general elections, refused to assume the governorship of East Darfur State, citing dissatisfaction with Al-Bashir’s decision.

Sources told Sudan Tribune that Kasha informed senior government officials that he rejects his new position because it would mean taking over an “arid and entirely collapsed” state in terms of infrastructure, as it has a lack of outlets, headquarters and departments.

The new governor Hamad Ismail held a press conference on Wednesday and announced the suspension of study at Nyala University and secondary schools as of Thursday.

He also announced that the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) would take charge of securing strategic locations and facilities in the state.

Ismail revealed that security authorities had conducted a wide campaign of arrests among local politicians but he declined to identify those under arrest.

According to the governor, one child was killed and dozens were injured, adding that the demonstrators had looted shops and destroyed government properties.

In the same conference, Deputy Governor Abdul Karim Musa Abdul Karim accused unnamed sides of trying to exploit the unrest.

The turmoil in South Darfur can be understood in the light of a power struggle between state governors who belong to the NCP, Like Kasha, and the Transitional Regional Authority of Darfur (TRAD), which was established under the aegis of the 2006 Abuja peace Agreement and later incorporated into the Doha agreement.

The governors refuse to cooperate with the TDRA on the perception that it detracts from their powers.