Corruption and the Sudanese Election
There is one very important issue which has not been raised by anyone, as I have listened to all reports from the election observers , until now , that is the buying and selling of votes and loyalty. According to my estimate this has amounted to not less than one billion US dollars over the last two years.
For the last year and in every Sudanese region, the issue of buying the loyalty of tribal and community leaders has been happening. This has not been by investing in their communities in terms of health, education and other services but instead in a crude way, by bribing them with cash or other material resources or jobs. Above all, it is cash. That has occurred not only for traditional leaders, but political parties also. The recent row about the amount given to the Umma Party, just two days before the election is one example. This amount was given in cash , and not through bank transfer or cheque and without any signature from the recipient. Until now we don’t know whether it was two million Sudanese pounds (US$ 800,000) or four million (US $1,600,000). It was a bribe for the Umma Party to participate in the election. We don’t know from where this amount was paid and what was the budget line, whether it was from the public purse or not.
In the run up to the election, people were talking about putting up your candidateship for election and then bargaining to withdraw it. If you stand down in favour of the NCP candidate, you will be paid. The price normally depends on the expected number voters who might vote for you. Tens of candidates withdraw their candidateship in favour of the NCP candidates and people were talking about the price they were paid for this.
My younger sister put up her candidateship for the Assembly of South Kordofan but I persuaded her to withdraw as I did not think it was worthwhile running. One of our relatives was unhappy about that decision as he believed she should have waited to be paid before withdrawing her candidateship, as she was expected to get many votes .
MY colleague Alex de Waal uses the terminology, “dollarization of the political marketplace.” I think that what happening in Sudan, and one of the main reasons why the NCP controls the political scene is because it has huge financial resources as it controls the government and the economy. But instead of using those resources to the benefit of the impoverished Sudanese people it uses it to corrupt public life. The resources the NCP is using are public resources, at the time which the government is not able to pay teachers and nurses’ salaries. Instead of using public monies for development and services, they use scarce resources to corrupt public life. One example which every Sudanese knows about is the rise in the price of sugar, in October 2009, when the price went up 100% at the very start of the sugar production season, at a time when there was no shortage of sugar in the market. In less than one month that measure raised around 52 million Sudanese pounds (22 million US dollars). The sugar trade in Sudan is controlled by 30 merchants, many Sudanese know their identities. This extra profit was not extra income to the treasury but was for the trader alone. I have tens of example of those types of transactions. Their political significance is that the NCP and its supporters have a complete monopoly over the Sudanese economy and whenever they want to fundraise they manufacture shortage in one of the strategic commodities (e.g. sugar, cement etc.). In addition, the question of how much is the actual income from the sale of oil, the main source of government income , is not answered. The actual figure of the country’s income from oil in the last ten years remains a secret, but people have the right to know.
What happened in Darfur recent, especially in al Fashir the scam centred on the al Mawasir (pipes) market, is another example. This was a pyramid or Ponzi scheme, in which you the seller is offered more than double the price of his commodity by accepting a post-dated cheque. Like all Ponzi schemes, that led a few people to make huge sum of money and lasted as long as there were new and gullible sellers. The scheme works on the basis of doubling the number of customers in every round, which means there are always more people who are owed money than those who have gained. In the end, the al Mawasir scheme collapsed and caused many to lose all their capital. There are strong rumours linking the whole operation to the election and the success of one specific political party and its candidate. An unanswered question is, where did all the cash come from that made the scheme work?
Corruption has become the norm in Sudanese public life and that what the “civilization project” has led us to.