Monday, February 22, 2010

Darfuri Student Laid to Rest Amid Tear Gas and Bullets

by Michelle

Published February 17, 2010 @ 09:50AM PT

A funeral in Khartoum turned into a political lightning rod yesterday, as friends and family mourning the death of Darfuri student activist Mohamed Musa Abdella Bahraldien -- at the hands, according to witnesses, of government security forces -- were joined by over a thousand supporters, presidential candidates, and riot police alike. The burial of the 23-year-old was interrupted by the liberal use of tear gas and rubber bullets by the police.

The suspicious death comes at a time of rising tensions, coinciding with the start of campaigning for presidential elections in April, and is for many emblematic of the ruling National Congress Party's (NCP) blatant disregard for basic human rights. Ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and assembly throughout Sudan threaten the legitimacy of the elections before they even happen, and the status of Darfur -- where emergency laws in place for the last 13 years are even more restrictive and fighting between rebels and government forces has intensified in recent weeks -- is particularly troublesome. The government's commitment to a ceasefire, much less peace, seems to last about as long as it takes a bomb to fall from an Antonov to the ground, and the rebels aren't much help, either.

But as opposition candidate Yasir Arman said yesterday, "This crime wasn't committed in a far village in the rural areas of Darfur. It was in the heart of the capital, a few kilometers from the [president's] palace." He may have made a campaign opportunity out of a funeral, but his comment is precisely on mark.

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