The ongoing debate about whether the April election should be postponed or not has entered a new phase, as the Presidency will discuss it on Tuesday, and according to the outcome of that meeting, the Juba Alliance will meet and decide whether to boycott the election or not, depending on whether their demands are considered or not.
The issue of postponement of the election or not must be considered according to a number of considerations including the following:
1- According to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) the election was supposed to be held at the second half of the interim period, but the CPA and its modalities of implementation clearly set what needed to be done prior to that date. This is to create a conducive environment for the election to be free and fair. Most of the necessary actions needed don’t cost a penny, for example changing all the laws to allow freedom of expression and association, and make them compatible with the Interim Constitution (Bill of Rights). There are around 12 laws which need to be changed including thr National Security and Intelligent Act.
2- There is a number of issues related to the census and election constituencies demarcation in the south and south Kordofan state, which were recently addressed by taking steps which undermine some core democratic principles, and also the Interim Constitution, by agreement between SPLM and NCP to add 40 seats in the south , 4 in South Kordofan and 2 in Abyei. That represents a very dangerous precedent, as the two parties to the CPA do what suits them whether it is constitutional or not at them time when the core constitutional principles are not being upheld. This shows that Sudan still needs a more democratic exercise to consolidate all those practices, or the way will be opened for more breaches in the future.
3- More people see this election as a process to legitimise the NCP and allow the south to move to the next step which is the referendum to allow it to secede. I strongly believe that southern Sudanese have the right for self-determination, but we have to address that as part of the overall process which addressing all the issues which be not been resolved until now as whole.
4- The election will be held at the time when that NCP is controlling all the government apparatus, and using them for their election campaign. Many issues needed to be addressed. A report on one of the national newspapers (Al Taiar) on Sunday 28 March clearly stated that only 1% of Al Sahafa population know how to vote. Al Sahafa is a neighbourhood at the middle of Khartoum the capital of Sudan, so just imagine the situation in other remote part of the country.
5- The election will not be comprehensive because many part of Sudan are not taking part of it, in Darfur, south Kordofan and even in the Centre of the country (El Gazira State) some areas will not be covered fully because of some legal disputes.
6- In Darfur the election will be held under state of emergency, with full restriction on all the political activities, and security crackdown.
7- The Darfur peace negotiations in Doha are not making any progress after the signing of the two protocols. The Justice And Equality Movement is asking for the postponement of the election as a pre-condition for their continuation of the peace negotiations. The first deadline for signing the final agreement 15 March, passed without any progress and now the NCP set 2 April 2010 as the last day for reaching an agreement and that date will pass without any progress also, and there is no sign that the deadlock has been broken.
8- The recent wars in Darfur led to more loss of lives and displaced more people in Jabal Mara area.
One of the main tasks which is supposed to be achieved in the interim period is putting the foundation for the smooth transition to democracy, and to ensure the durability and sustainability of the coming democracy by learning from Sudan recent political history. I don’t think that task has been achieved, and we are repeating the same mistake of 1965 and 1986, when most of the issues concerning the transition to democracy not been addressed properly and people jumped straight to elections. That is why democracies failed. Sudan is in a worse situation now, more than 1965 and 1986. In those two periods we had only one war (in the south), now the whole country is under threat of sliding into wars , south Sudan is not stable. The country will most probably stay as it is unless those core issues are being addressed to make secession smooth, with the issues of south Kordofan and Abyei still hanging over us.
One of the main problem now is the international community has fallen into the NCP trap, leaving everything half baked, and moving to the final stages of the CPA implementation without ensuring that the necessary steps which ensure stability and peaceful transition are achieved. There are mutual agreements between the NCP, SPLM and the international community, and each wants the election to go ahead for its own reasons. For the NCP the aim is to gain legitimacy and buy time. For SPLM and the international community they are looking for 2011 referendum which more probably lead to the secession of the south, but there is no guarantee that will lead to stability and peaceful transition not only for Sudan as country but also for the neighbouring countries. There no plan B if anything goes wrong, as the referendum is going to be rushed ,as there is no time to properly address all the issues relating to that as we will only have less than nine months, for that.
The NCP is rushing the issue of the election, not because they are fulfilling their commitment to the CPA, as they refuse to fulfil their other commitments, mainly upholding the Interim Constitution. Instead they pick and choose. They are well aware that they don’t have majority support among Sudanese people but the opposite as they create more enemies, among all sectors of Sudanese society, and the Islamic movement is now ravaged with splits, with the ICC hanging over them.
The NCP succeeded in keeping the opposition busy with minor issues, and until now we don’t know whether the opposition will contest the election or not with just two weeks remaining. No one is able to expose the NCP records in the in their 21 years in power. The NCP can simply be defeated by a negative campaign, just reminding Sudanese people of who are those people and what have they done in those 21 years as they run out of steam and ideas and they have nothing to offer to Sudanese people, and instead what they have done the those years is to enrich themselves and impoverish millions of Sudanese .
Now the country is facing very serious problems. Most of them have become more complicated by wrong policies, which are mainly designed to serve the interest of the few. Millions lost their lives in the long wars orchestrated by the NCP. Now Sudan is facing more problems than ever included the following:
- Millions of displaced people all over Sudan.
- Threat of famine to many of its parts.
- Army of unemployed graduates, and youth with no policies to address these issues, so that many of them lost hope.
- Widening the gap in term of development between the northern states and other marginalised areas. This is clearly the case in Kordofan and Darfur. The government used the oil revenue which is produced from south Kordofan and the south, to develop the northern states, and has also pursued this by borrowing money using the creditworthiness of the country due to oil production. At this time, 2% of the oil income is supposed to be allocated to the states which produce oil, has not been given to those states, and especially it has not been given to the Messirya area in south Kordofan at the time when the Messiriya have to put up with the negative environmental impacts of the oil exploration which destroys their livelihoods. This reminds us of Abdel Raheem Hamdi Triangle (an NCP internal policy paper which directs investment to the central areas of northern Sudan).
- Rising cost of living for millions of low income people, and the current industrial dispute with medical doctors which is the start of unrest among most of public sector workers which will continue in the coming months.
- Destruction of the country’s main economic activity (agriculture).
- Big decline of oil production (quality and quantity) which is also leading to the falling price of Sudanese oil in comparison to the standard prices on the international oil market.
- Huge amount of foreign debts.
- Decline of the country revenue due the falling price of oil as oil represented around 65% of the total revenue.
- Sign of unrest among public sector workers due to the huge gap between their income the cost of living, at the time when the government has frozen the public sector pay for two years the actual rate of inflation rose by around 20% in the last 6 months.
I don’t think holding election now will help in addressing the above difficult issues facing the country, electing the NCP in a controversial election will only make impossible to address those issues.
Sudan needs national consensus now more than ever, to be able to navigate its way out of the current difficulties