Sudan: Khartoum quiet after riots death toll rises to 130

News and Press Release
Originally published
By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Khartoum and its suburbs were quiet on Thursday after three days of rioting in which a relief group said at least 130 people were killed following the death of former rebel leader and First Vice President John Garang.

However, millions of Sudanese living in slums and makeshift camps around the Sudanese capital were still suffering the effects of the violence.

Some in the Mayo camp, populated mostly by southern Sudanese and those who fled fighting in the western region of Darfur, said they were too afraid to leave their homes and there were food shortages as movement between the capital and the camp had been cut off.

Police had surrounded the camp area to prevent rioters from there moving elsewhere.

In spite of a curfew imposed to try to curb the violence, armed gangs of vigilantes roamed the streets of Khartoum in the days after Garang's death in a helicopter crash was announced on Monday.

The Sudanese Red Crescent's director of disaster management told Reuters the death toll in the capital by Wednesday evening was 111, with six killed in Malakal and 13 in the southern town of Juba, where Garang will be buried on Saturday.

"It was very quiet last night compared to the previous two nights," Hadi Ali al-Obeid said.

The curfew on Thursday was shortened from 11 p.m. until 5 p.m., a sign the security situation in the capital was improving.

Many of Khartoum's commercial districts were in ruins, with shops burnt and looted and cars wrecked following the clashes.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir called on state television for calm on Wednesday, the third day of Khartoum's worst rioting in many years. More than 300 people were injured in violence in the city.

There was no suggestion foul play was behind the crash while Garang was returning from Uganda to Sudan on Saturday. But the president has issued a decree establishing a joint committee with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) to investigate the crash.

At the request of the U.S. State Department, the National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched five investigators to assist in the probe.


Garang led the former southern rebel SPLM in a bitter struggle with the Islamist Khartoum-based government for more than two decades before signing a peace deal in January to end Africa's longest civil war.

He returned to Khartoum to be sworn in as first vice president on July 9, and was working on forming a coalition government.

The peace deal involved wealth and power sharing, democratic elections within three years and a southern referendum on secession from the north within six years.

Salva Kiir, Garang's deputy, has been appointed as the new head of the SPLM and will be sworn in as first vice president in coming weeks.

In southern Sudan, thousands of distraught and disbelieving Garang followers flocked to see his body as it was transported from village to village by plane for a final farewell.

The plane was heading for Rumbek later on Thursday before Saturday's funeral in Juba, the regional capital.

The international aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) France said they had moved into Mayo outside Khartoum to set up trauma clinics in case of further violence before the funeral.

MSF said the government had helped it bypass usual regulations because of the emergency situation, but other local non-governmental organisations said they were having trouble gaining access to the camps and had been told it would take a week to arrange permits to set up clinics to treat the injured.

Ahmed Abdel Rahman of the national aid agency SUDO said they were calling on the government urgently to waive the usual regulations and allow them immediate access to help feed and provide health care to those affected.

"The hospitals are full, they cannot cover all these persons with services," he told Reuters.

Government officials were unavailable for immediate comment. (Additional reporting by Katie Nguyen in southern Sudan)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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