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Three protesters held on day 1 of Darfur referendum

April 11 - 2016 EL FASHER / ZALINGEI
El Fasher student demonstration against the holding of the Darfur referendum on the first day of the voting, Monday 11 April 2016. It was eventually dispersed by policemen and security agents using teargas (RD)
El Fasher student demonstration against the holding of the Darfur referendum on the first day of the voting, Monday 11 April 2016. It was eventually dispersed by policemen and security agents using teargas (RD)

On the first day of the referendum, university students and displaced people demonstrated against the voting on the administrative status of Darfur. Police used a large amount of teargas against the students.

A student told Radio Dabanga that students of El Fasher University in North Darfur started their demonstration in the campus at 11am. They moved through all faculties, shouting slogans against the referendum. 

When the demonstrators reached the entrance of the campus at 2pm, policemen and members of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) dispersed the crowd by using large amounts of teargas and beating students with batons.

The students ran back to the university, followed by policemen, security agents, and students who support Sudan's ruling NCP. “They were followed back into their student houses. The forces also entered El Zahra student house for women,” the student said.

Three students were detained: Izeldin Ismail, Abdallah Eisa, and El Tayeb Abdelshafe Ahmed. “Nonetheless, we will continue our protests against the referendum.”

Students demonstrate outside El Fasher University against the referendum on Monday (RD)

The referendum runs until Wednesday. Registered voters will decide whether Darfur should return to being one state, or remain divided in the five states.

Listeners who passed-by various polling centres in Darfur told Radio Dabanga that the first day witnessed a weak turnout of voters.

The chair of the Darfur Referendum Commission, Omar Ali Jammaa, said in a press statement to the official Sudan News Agency that reports from all states affirmed that the voting process started in the fixed time without security problems.

“Tomorrow we will stay inside and no one will  vote. On the third and final day, we will protest again.”

Central Darfur protests

On Sunday, displaced people, native administration leaders, activists and civil society forces have called for the population of Darfur to resist and boycott the referendum.

Displaced people in camps in Zalingei in Central Darfur held demonstrations today, too. Residents of Hamidiya camp gathered at the old airport, east of the camp, and peacefully chanted slogans against the referendum.

At the same time, displaced people from Khamsa Degaig camp protested in front of the native administration's office west of the camp, until 3pm.

The coordinator of the Central Darfur camps told Radio Dabanga that both protests did not witness any involvement from the police or security service.

“Tomorrow we will stay inside the camps and no one will go out to vote,” the coordinator said. “At the the end of the referendum, we will go out again, in a final demonstration.”

The US State Department stated on Saturday that it is concerned that voting under current rules and conditions cannot be considered a “credible expression of the will of the people of Darfur.

“Insecurity in Darfur and inadequate registration of Darfuris residing in internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps prohibit sufficient participation […] Furthermore, the Darfur Referendum Commission’s recent announcement that Darfurians residing outside of Darfur will be ineligible to vote disenfranchises millions of Darfurians, refugees, and IDPs,” spokesman Mark Toner said.

Members of civil society organisations monitoring the voting in El Fasher on 11 April 2016 (SUNA)

West Darfur polling centre for Darfur referendum on 11 April 2016 (SUNA)​

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