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General Elections in Sudan by the Year 2009: A Fact or a Fiction?/By Dr. Mahmoud A. Suleiman
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Aug 20, 2007 - 10:30:29 AM

General Elections in Sudan by the Year 2009: A Fact or a Fiction?

 

By Dr. Mahmoud A. Suleiman

Observers strongly believe that unless the situation in Darfur is significantly improved soon, further implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) could be threatened. Without just and sustainable peace in Darfur , the nation-wide elections mandated in the CPA for 2009 could be postponed or cancelled. This, without doubt, would undermine the accord and would be destabilising for the whole country. Many observers are assertively saying if anyone still believes that the year 2009 will witness free and fair general elections in the Sudan, as stipulated in the monumental CCPA of Naivasha, Kenya, that individual is living on Cloud Cuckoo’s Land.

 

As one understands, general elections mean that Sudanese people in that year will simultaneously cast their votes to elect democratically the President of the country, members of both upper and lower houses of the National Parliament, states governors, and members of states’ assemblies, counties commissioners, local administrative units (LAU) administrators and city council members. In addition, the people of southern Sudan will also cast their votes to elect a president for the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) and members of the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly. Serious doubts have been cast to whether Government of Sudan (GOS) is fit to run general elections of such complexity. It is thought an election fiasco in the making is underway.

 

As prerequisite to this unprecedented event, there are enormous tasks ahead that need to be addressed. Those tasks include among many others, formation of a General Election Commission/ Authority (GEC) the legitimacy of which acts as the elections watchdog. This is challenged because of the lack of sufficient constitutional safeguards to ensure its independence and impartiality that is acceptable to all political bodies. Preparedness of political parties for elections, border demarcations between the disputed South and North of Sudan with view to setting up constituencies and population census, the outcome of which will help the government to distribute services equally and effectively are vitally important.  Furthermore, Sudanese people are longing for just sustainable peace that can coexist with a democratic system that guarantees diversity, equality and freedom.

 

Needless to say, preparations for national elections should also take into consideration Darfur where almost half the population have been forced to leave their homelands into IDP and Refugee Camps. Their cleansed land has been repopulated by Arabs from Chad, Niger and other parts of Sudan who have been entering Darfur in "unprecedented" numbers in the last few months, bringing along their flocks and belongings, and have been granted with Sudanese identity cards, even citizenship and were invited to stay there. Writing for English Independent, Steve Bloomfield wrote, July 21, 20 07:

“.. up to 30,000 Arabs have crossed the border – [into Darfur ]- in the past three months.   Most arrived with all their belongings and large flocks. They were greeted by Sudanese Arabs who took them to empty villages cleared by the government and the Janjaweed forces. … further 45,000 Arabs from Niger have also crossed over”.

 

Provision of effective security to protect civilians in the absence of credible peace is of paramount necessity. Moreover, there remains confidence-building task in the prevailing lack of trust in the transparency of the ruling NCP. People of Sudan have experienced tactics of deceit, intimidation and corruption perpetually practised by the Khartoum regime over the past two decades.  The National Congress Party (NCP) will not be deterred to use unlawfully the public resources as logistics for its election campaigns whilst other political groups will have none.  This obviously will create a situation of unequal opportunities among candidates.

 

Electoral irregularities, government misconduct and interference in the election process and coercive canvassing by the security elements of the regime are highly likely to hinder free voting to take place. As it will be expected, incumbent President Lieutenant General Omar Al-Bashir and members of his political party the National Congress will declare the winning of all but a few of the seats if the situation remains as it is now. The result would be a further attempt by the NCP to consolidate the totalitarian regime of General Al-Bashir that has reigned over the country since 30th June 1989 . Al-Bashir's regime has more than one eye on the general elections due to be held in Sudan in 2009. The government hopes an election victory will give the dictatorship a seal of legitimacy in the eyes of the international community. It will also ensure that Sudan 's booming oil revenues remain in the hands of the ruling elite.

Large scale rigging of election results is inevitable especially in the remote areas of the country where International observers are unlikely to be present due to lack of security and personal safety. In such geographical locations, government agents will totally control Election Centres.

 

In the absence of security that protects civilians and in the prevailing state of emergency declared by the head of the ruling NCP, the intended General Election Commission will not be able to function. With utter lack of trust in the fairness of the coming elections, a low turnout is eminent.   Likelihood is that some sections of the Sudanese political opposition will boycott the election. As a consequence, eligible voters will have no chance to participate in the elections. It will be a lost opportunity for the Sudanese people, including those outside the country in the Diaspora, who have been longing to exercise their democratic rights freely.

 

It is important to state here that the holding of elections as such neither guarantees democracy nor can it be seen as an end itself.   However, and only if it is done fairly, can it form a solid base for true democracy; democracy that is in tune with modern concepts of human rights and fundamental citizen freedom.   Unfortunately, there is no shortcut here.   Necessary measures must be taken if we are to ensure that the coming elections are fair and capable of forming a platform for genuine democracy.   These measures must guarantee a fair and conducive atmosphere for the holding of true and genuine elections in which all citizens participate without discrimination. Article 21 (3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage … ".

 

The current situation of political freedoms in the Sudan is still catastrophic. Systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms against political opponents including unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary arrests and detention incommunicado without charges or trial continue unabated.

The country is still under the state of emergency that gives the government sweeping powers to deal with the opposition and commit all sorts of human rights violations with impunity.

In the light of the foregoing, the only logical option for the GoS is to address the current impasse through restoration of political freedom and peaceful negotiation of Darfur problem.   Furthermore, the GoS must work for national reconciliation and take all necessary political and legal measures that are conducive to a healthy democratic exercise before the organizing of polls.

 

The political situation in Sudan falls short of the requirements for the holding of fair and genuine elections as required by Article 25 (a), (b) and (c) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The article asserts that "Every citizen shall have the right and opportunity, … without unreasonable restriction; (a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representative; (b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors; and (c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public services in his country".

 

According to Article 21 of the Election Ordinance government officials should resign their public functions before running for elections. At the time of previous elections, Lieutenant General Omar Al-Bashir was an active army officer and did not resign his post which represents a serious violation of the Election Ordinance. Occurrence of a similar incident during the 2009 national event, the whole electoral procedure will be deemed legally null and void.

In summary, Sudan under the Arabised-Islamist Congress Party regime is not qualified to hold credible free and fair Nationwide General Elections by the Year 2009. It is only possible when compelling commitments are taken to revoke all the laws restricting freedoms combined with concerted and exercised efforts to stop the war and reach credible peace in Darfur . The need for speeding up the census operations is paramount to ensuring accurate demographic estimate for fair democratic elections.

 

It is imperative on the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLA/M) as a partner in the government of national unity to prove itself as a legitimate partner in the coalition government. It is expected to work for all the Sudanese people to achieve their aspirations that have been denied by the Khartoum regime for so long. The Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army/ Movement (SPLA/M) has a formidable task to accomplish in this respect.

 

 

“We will return and we will continue and we will not rest”

 

 

 

Author's address:

Dr. Mahmoud.A.Suleiman

Deputy Chairman for Justice & Equality Movement (JEM)

E-mail address:

[email protected]

 

Author's address:

Dr. Mahmoud.A.Suleiman

Deputy Chairman for Justice & Equality Movement (JEM)

E-mail address:

[email protected]

 



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