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Articles and Analysies Last Updated: Dec 20, 2009 - 3:34:53 PM

The elections in Sudan – hopes and fears By: Ahmed Elzobier

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The elections in Sudan – hopes and fears

By : Ahmed Elzobier


Voter registration started in Khartoum early this month but the whole process is shrouded in secrecy. In the first few days you had to be extremely lucky to find a place where you could register your name. In a country considered technologically illiterate the National Election Commission decided to publish its registration locations on the internet, of all places.

“We don’t know?”, is the usual response of the indifferent public in Khartoum . Most people, given their previous experience over the last 20 years, have a low regard and expectation of the political class in this country. As the majority of people are now struggling to feed their families, the last thing on their minds is to be bothered about what they consider a sham democratic process.

Political parties and other monitoring groups reported countless voter registration irregularities, with all fingers pointing to the National Congress Party (NCP). These irregularities include parallel registration, adding names after registration closure, collecting (literally confiscating) people registration cards and the suspicious registration of the army and the police force at their workplaces rather than places of residence. The NCP has dismissed the opposition’s allegations and accused them of trying to sabotage the elections. As the opposition parties have threatened to boycott the elections if democratic laws are not passed by 30 November, the mounting evidence of irregularities in the voter registration is adding fuel to the fire.

Sudan is one of those rollercoaster countries that is always capable of filling you with a sense of despair and hopelessness, but sometimes a glimpse of hope. Despite the numerous voter registration frauds, the internet seems to provide some source of hope as many young and educated Sudanese use it as a platform to express their political opinions and frustrations. On 1 November a group of young people launched a political campaign on the Facebook website and named it Girfna, meaning “disgusted”. The organizers aim to gather enough support to defeat the National Congress Party and its leader Omar al-Bashir. Over 1,700 have joined this group so far.

The National Congress Party has dismissed the group as communist party members and sympathizers. However, a female participant expressed her frustration and wrote, “I am not a communist. But yes, since the 1980s we have studied your curricula, we watched your programme Sahat Al-Fida (arenas of sacrifice) and your martyr weddings. We entered the university, and we were disgusted by what we have seen there. Since our graduation we started looking for jobs that we can’t find… why should I vote for you?”

Another, smaller Facebook group is called Khalas, which stands for “enough”. They appeal to all political parties to stand united against the NCP in the elections. Their slogan is One Candidate for a United Country. So far over 160 have joined this group. An additional campaign was launched by the National Unionist Party called Kafakum – “it is enough”. They listed over 33 reasons why the Sudanese have had enough; chief among them is the desire for a united country that respects the diversity of its people in terms of religion and ethnicity.

An informal online poll showed that the majority of the participants, about 84% voted NO to Omar al-Bashir as president. Another Sudanese website also conducted an informal poll and about 65% voted NO to Omar al-Bashir as president. Although a note of caution should be mentioned; as the online poll is not a scientific survey and may not represent the views of all people in this country as only 3 million have internet access in Sudan , mainly in the capital city Khartoum . Yet it is still an indication of the strength of feeling against the current government among these Sudanese.

The NCP is not an easy prey. The party, in addition to its overwhelming control over the state machinery and particularly the security forces, and its unmatched economic resources, undoubtedly has a sizable following and support. Recently they claimed to have nearly 6 million members, but this figure is greatly exaggerated.

Some of the party’s high and middle ranks are well organized and skillful political operators, with an enviable talent for political survival. A major weakness is that to attract voters they mainly have to use two methods, bribes and intimidation, but such practice is counterproductive and can only delegitimize the election process. Unfortunately, it might also lead to violence with unpredictable consequences.

A pro-government Facebook group called Shabik Tashabek has expressed their support for the nomination of Omar al-Bashir, as they say they are concerned for the country’s best interests and its sovereignty. They appreciate all the developmental projects that Omar al-Bashir and his regime have implemented in Sudan . Many members consider Al Ingaz as the best government to have ever ruled Sudan , and many seem to genuinely believe that if Omar al-Bashir lost the election this could lead to a catastrophe that would affect the whole country. So far over 170 have joined this group.

As many politicians and observers are now talking about miracles, the coming year will be a decisive one in Sudan , with the anticipated elections and the referendum, this country is facing its biggest historical test since 1898.

In terms of unity and separation, I have always thought of Sudan as an ancient legendary mural downloaded from the hub of history. For us to feel content and peaceful with ourselves and others we need to see our diversity reflected in this vision. But that is not the case and we are now heading towards a very unpredictable future. To anticipate a meltdown is not even an option, because Sudan as we know it could disappear from the map of Africa . Historians, undoubtedly, will contemplate countless reasons for our failure. Nevertheless, as a people our biggest failure is imbedded in our inability to reconcile with our history. Little did we know that this “inability” alone has probably triggered our current free-fall into the abyss. As we continue to inch closer to the bottom, only then will we realise that it is surely psychology rather than politics that can finally untangle us from our short-lived but tragic tale.


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