SUDAN WATCH: South Sudan SPLM's Pagan Amum and deputy arrested by Sudanese police

Monday, December 07, 2009

South Sudan SPLM's Pagan Amum and deputy arrested by Sudanese police

Several senior southern Sudanese politicians have been arrested during a rally held today in Khartoum, sparking widespread anger. Hundreds of opposition protesters gathered despite their rally being banned.

Within hours protesters in two towns in the south had set alight offices of President Omar al-Bashir's National Congress Party (NCP).

Yasir Arman, a senior member of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), scuffled with police outside the National Assembly and was driven away to a police station, where other demonstrators gathered, a Reuters witness said.

The SPLM released a statement saying its Secretary General Pagan Amum and Sudan's state minister for interior Abbas Juma, an SPLM member, were also arrested.

The BBC's James Copnall, in Omdurman, Khartoum, Sudan says the argument over electoral laws and the crackdown on protesters show a deteriorating relationship between the NCP and its detractors.

After the arrests, south Sudan's president Salva Kiir contacted president Bashir, who promised to release all prisoners, said SPLM member Anne Itto. No one was immediately available for comment from the presidency.

Itto said the news sparked anger in the south, where attackers set fire to the NCP's headquarters in Wau, the capital of Western Bahr el Ghazal state. She had no reports of injuries.

Secretary General of the SPLM, Pagan Amum said immediately after his release that the SPLM will continue to demonstrate until president Omar al Bashir starts fully to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and the South.

Pagan Amum first refused his release requesting for clarifications. After he went out from detention he spoke angrily about the beating of the Northern SPLM-leader Yassir Arman who had to be treated in the hospital. Pagan Amum said that Arman was okay after he received treatment.

Source: See reports here below from BBC, Reuters, Radio Dabanga, Sudan Tribune.

Protest rally in Khartoum, Sudan

Photo: Sudanese opposition supporters demonstrate against the government's electoral laws in the capital Khartoum, December 7, 2009. Riot police arrested thee senior members of south Sudan's main political party and more than 100 supporters who demonstrated outside Sudan's parliament on Monday despite an official ban, witnesses and officials said. (Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin)

From BBC News at 13:48 GMT, Monday, 7 December 2009 - excerpt:
Sudan SPLM arrests spark southern unrest
Several senior southern Sudanese politicians have been arrested during a rally, sparking widespread anger.

Among those held in Khartoum was the secretary general of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), Pagan Amum.
Within hours protesters in two towns in the south had set alight offices of President Omar al-Bashir's National Congress Party (NCP).

The SPLM joined a power-sharing government in 2005 to end 22 years of conflict between north and south Sudan.

But tensions have been rising between the SPLM and the NCP in recent months

'We want freedom'

Next year's vote will be the first presidential, parliamentary and local elections in 24 years.

Monday is the final day for voters to register for the election, and the government declared it a public holiday in an effort to encourage a good turnout.

But the SPLM and the NCP have failed to agree on changes to the election laws.

And about 20 opposition parties called for a gathering in front of the parliament building in the capital to demand electoral reform.

Hundreds of demonstrators turned out, watched by lines of armed police.

The AFP news agency reported that demonstrators marched through Khartoum and its neighbouring city Omdurman waving placards and chanting: "We want our freedom."

As the protest grew - with some reports estimating thousands of people had joined the rally - police fired tear gas and beat the protesters with batons.

Mr Amum was arrested along with his deputy Yasir Arman and other SPLM figures - with unconfirmed reports claiming dozens of protesters were also detained.

Following the arrests, protesters in the southern towns of Rumbek and Wau set fire to NPC offices.

Deteriorating relations

After the crackdown SPLM members accused the NCP of suppressing free speech.

But interior ministry officials said the protest was outlawed because the organisers had failed to apply for permission to hold the event.

The BBC's James Copnall, in Omdurman, says the argument over electoral laws and the crackdown on protesters show a deteriorating relationship between the NCP and its detractors. [...]
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From Reuters by Andrew Heavens in Khartoum, Sudan 8:29 a.m. ET Dec. 7, 2009 - excerpt:
Senior southern figures arrested as Sudan bans rally
(KHARTOUM) - Riot police arrested thee senior members of south Sudan's main political party and more than 100 supporters who demonstrated outside Sudan's parliament Monday despite an official ban, witnesses and officials said.

Yasir Arman, a senior member of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), scuffled with police outside the National Assembly and was driven away to a police station, where other demonstrators gathered, a Reuters witness said.

The SPLM released a statement saying its Secretary General Pagan Amum and Sudan's state minister for interior Abbas Juma, an SPLM member, were also arrested.

The SPLM is junior partner in the national coalition government formed by a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war between Sudan's north and south.

The SPLM and opposition parties had called the rally to demand democratic reforms ahead of next year's elections in a rare public challenge to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's dominant northern National Congress Party (NCP). Sudanese authorities announced Sunday that the rally was banned.

Police beat protesters and onlookers outside parliament with batons as Arman was driven away with other SPLM members chanting "freedom."

Hundreds more banner-waving supporters gathered in the area and other parts of Khartoum's Omdurman suburb after the arrests and were dispersed by police using tear gas through the morning.

"The situation is brutal. More than 100 SPLM members have been arrested and many more other protesters have been detained," SPLM spokeswoman Keji Roman told Reuters.

After the arrests, south Sudan's president Salva Kiir contacted president Bashir, who promised to release all prisoners, said SPLM member Anne Itto. No one was immediately available for comment from the presidency.

Itto said the news sparked anger in the south, where attackers set fire to the NCP's headquarters in Wau, the capital of Western Bahr el Ghazal state. She had no reports of injuries.

Senior NCP official Ibrahim Ghandour told Reuters the protest had not been banned by his party, but by Sudan's Interior Ministry which declared it illegal because organizers had failed to apply for permission to hold the event.

"The National Congress Party is not against democratic action including protests and rallies," he said. "We hope the people will be released immediately."

An official in the opposition Umma party had said Sunday the ban showed the NCP was not serious about letting dissenting voices take part in elections, scheduled for April 2010. [...]
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From Radio Dabanga, December 7, 2009:
SPLM: ‘More demonstrations in Sudan to come’
KHARTOUM (07 Dec.) – The SPLM will continue to organize demonstrations against the ruling National Congress Party of President Omar al Bashir. Secretary General of the SPLM, Pagan Amum said immediately after his release that the SPLM will continue to demonstrate until president Omar al Bashir starts fully to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and the South. Pagan Amum first refused his release requesting for clarifications. After het went out from detention he spoke angrily about the beating of the Northern SPLM-leader Yassir Arman who had to be treated in the hospital. Pagan Amum said that Arman was okay after he received treatment. Asked whether Pagan Amum is going to negotiate with the government he answered angrily: ‘Which government? What do you mean with government? We have no negotiations at all. We continue to demonstrate until the NCP implements the CPA’. The NCP came into power after a military coup in 1989 while the country was ravaged by civil war.

In 2005 The NCP and SPLM signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) after almost twenty years of civil war. The agreement included sharing of wealth and power and the right of self determination for Southern Sudan to be decided in a referendum in 2012. The border issues between North and South (Abyei) is one of the most contagious disputes between the parties. The outcome of the census (population count) was highly disputed by the SPLM and also the current voter’s registration in Northern Sudan is under severe critics. The opposition is almost excluded from having any influence of the ‘electoral processes. Also the fifty percent share from oil revenues is not fully paid out to the South, according to the SPLM.
Further reading

See 100+ comments at Sudan Tribune's article published today:  Sudan arrests SPLM SG Pagan Amum and Yasir Arman

Sudan police detain opposition leaders over rally

AFP - ‎2 hours ago‎
KHARTOUM — Southern protesters torched offices of Sudan's ruling party after Khartoum police arrested three southern leaders and dozens of protesters on ...
Sudan Tribune - Afrik.comall 92 news articles »

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