UN officials help carry a box with electoral materials in Sudan/AFP
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 11 - Scores of Sudanese living in Kenya on Sunday thronged the Sudanese Embassy in Nairobi to participate in the first democratic general elections in their country in 24 years.
Ambassador Majok Guangdong led the elated voters some of whom were casting their ballots for the first time in their lives to choose their president, national assembly representatives and state governors of the country that has grappled with political instability for many decades now.
The three-day historic event is the final stage in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005 to bring peace back into the country and Mr Guangdong was confident that this would be achieved.
“This election is very exciting for the people of Sudan especially young people who have not been voting. We have already gone through registration, nomination, voters’ education, campaigns so today there is no talk; its only people queuing to cast their vote to choose their new leader,” said the Ambassador.
Asked whether they anticipated any violence, Mr Guangdong said they had all confidence that the elections would be free and fair and without such incidents. He dismissed reports that many foreigners including Kenyans were fleeing Juba.
“That is not true, this is misinformation. I spoke to many people including Kenyans yesterday and they are still there enjoying life,” he added.
Deputy Ambassador Badreldin Abdalla who’s from the North also expressed optimism that the process would translate into the re-emergence of democracy in Sudan and mark the beginning of a new political life there.
“Democracy is not a new phenomenon in Sudan; we are just reviving that mood and spirit of democracy. This is very vital and it will bring a lot of changes by making the image of Sudan far better and this will of course affect the social and economic life of the country,” Mr Abdalla added.
The nationals have only voted about six times since the country’s independence in 1953 and it was therefore important to involve all Sudanese including those in the Diaspora in the historic event.
The country’s National Elections Commission (NEC) ensured the opening of 22 polling centres in countries that host many Sudanese to ensure that they have a fair chance of making their voices heard.
There are over 30,000 Sudanese living in Kenya but only a small percentage of them are registered to vote as many of them are still regarded as refugees.
“It’s very exciting for me to vote,” said 27 year old Gatkuoth Kulang adding that many of his countrymen hope that they will never have to experience the political volatility again.
General Sudanese Students Union Chairman Mabil Kot who was also voting for the first time reckoned that the democratic process would transform the country’s image in the international arena from a warring nation to a democratic state.
The Kenyan polling station was opened at 8am and will close at 6pm after which counting will be done in the presence of local observers from the civil society, political parties representatives after which the results will be relayed back to Sudan.
The winners will be announced on Tuesday, with the elected president serving for a four-year term.