A senior member of a Sudanese opposition party, was present at the meeting of the leaders of the Juba Alliance in which the issue of boycotting the elections was discussed at length. From the meeting he knew precisely where each of the parties stood: which were for contesting the elections, which were for comprehensive boycott, and which were for partial boycott or were undecided. In the circumstances, his information was as precise, accurate, and up to date as any.
On leaving the meeting he saw the BBC news which was reporting a comprehensive boycott. This threw him into confusion. Assuming that the BBC had better information than he did, he also reported the BBC’s report as fact. The BBC report was actually inaccurate.
The last 72 hours have been characterized by confusion, conflicting information and shifting positions. It has not been helped by the fact that some political leaders express different opinions to different audiences, changing their language and emphasis, sometimes by the hour. Few of the political parties have sufficient internal discipline for all their spokesmen to give the same message, so that depending on who is speaking, a different story emerges. There is a vast amount of rumour and inference.
A general rule for the current situation is that those who know most, speak least, and those who are appearing most frequently in the media, usually know less.
In these circumstances, news reports and the publications by international groups often carry unwarranted weight. The position of the U.S. has been very clear: it wants the election to proceed. But some political leaders, particularly at the second level, take reports of non-governmental organizations which are taking a principled stand against the elections, as indicative of what the international community will do.
Finding the truth is always hard in the Sudanese political scene. At the moment it is simply impossible.