Good for Sudan
The last two days I have been in Khartoum, on the phone and email to people in all corners of Sudan. Places like Bor, Renk, Damazin, Aweil, Geneina, ed Da’ien, Hamush Koreb, Kadugli.
Names seared into the memory. Places where I took photographs of burned villages and disfigured survivors, or wrote accounts of misery and destruction. Some places that I never visited, but which were described to me by escapees who detailed their imprisonment, violation, hunger and despair. As Deborah Scroggins wrote of the displaced camps along the railway line to the south in 1988, these were “places so sad that the mind grows queasy trying to understand them.” For the last 24 years, since I spent Sudan’s last multi-party election day in the village of Nankose, south of Zalingei, whenever I received a message from one of these places, it was usually to report a story of execution, starvation, or forced displacement. My questions were, who is dead and who is alive, who is in prison and who is still free?
Today the questions are, did the ballots arrive in time? Were all the names on the electoral roll? What was the voter turnout?
Quietly, with dignity, with apprehension and sometimes with confusion and frustration, millions of Sudanese are voting. Good for them.
Yet more fundamental questions are also being asked.
Why this pressure to hold the elections now,with all these boycotts and with a war in Dar Fur?
What is the hidden agenda of those who pressed for the elections to be held,so that the referendum takes place on time?
Why the premonitions of President Carter and his talk of a (religious war) between the North and the South, a war which he says could become regional because (some neighbouring states are strongly Christian and may very well weigh in too).
What is the real mission of Special Envoy Scot Gration in Sudan?
Why turn a blind eye to all the complaints about violations in both the North and the South?
When candidates of high calibre and weight,withdraw, something must be wrong, yet the Observers and friends, are silent.
Will this election,finally settle the issue of the ICC indictment of the President, if he wins?
Will this election, as they are, bring forth a government that can solve the problems facing the country or are we witnessing the beginning of the end of the country known as the Sudan, and the birth of three or five more new states in Africa? And which are the other African countries that may be subjected to knives of our friends.
Questions that one must ask.
yet more important questions to be asked are:
*did the history of world democracy ever report such large scale violations as those we see everyday in Sudan?
*was there any doubt that Al-Bashir will rig the elections?
*has the world ever witnessed widespread use of bribes and political concessions to secure the results of elections?
*will the world recognize the results of elections because Carter and Gration make positive remarks about it?
it will sound likes a pinkish-optimism if we rely on this elections to bring us peace and unity, as long it does not tackle the main issues that are tearing us apart and fueling this racism flaming everywhere around us. The first thing anyone has eyes will notice is that there are people who live in this country and are as productive even more than most of the candidates, neglected and do not care about its outcome, the educated people and modern Sudanese, ladies who wear pants for example, the middle class which suppose to be the driven of the economy is totally isolated from the electoral scene, people who are not loyal to any party. Since religion has been dragged into this ugly competition and been utilized for the sake of votes.
I also fail to understand why NCP doesn’t agree to postpone the election. What’s the benefit for them to run the election now but not later?
To say if there is a war going on so the election could not be carried out is also absurd. What about Iraq and Afghanistan? Should their elections be hold on until the end of the wars?
Dear Sami Tamim,
What do you mean by: “pinkish-optimism”? Please explain.
Dear David Barsoum,
I think you are asking quite expansive questions. What necessary and/or sufficient conditions would safeguard an election in your view?
It seems, so far, the voting procedures are legitimate. There are no reports of coercion and initmidation. If 24 years of Bashir’s rule don’t drive people to vote him out, then we must ask more a more fundamental of fundamental questions: why do the majority of the voting constituents vote for Bashir? Who is voting?
One can certainly argue that the use of state resources and the campaigning was disproportionately in favor of the NCP. Also, it seems, the SPLM was sending mixed signals to the Southern Sudan public, suggesting in some circles to vote for Bashir as President of the Republic. Furthermore, rumors of “backdoor” agreements during the initial period of Arman’s (fake) and unconstitutional withdrawal suggest the SPLM and NCP are scheming to retain authority and control over the country.
Now I can think of a series of grounded fundamental questions with respect to these observations.
Dear Mr. Jamaledin,
Pinkish-optimism is like when you think it won’t rain while the sky is full of black clouds, or when you wake up so late and think you will not miss the class, it is great to be optimistic but realistic also.
Iraq and Afghanistan are not the example i want me country to follow, a proof to my point; see what the Iraq election has brought them, the elected president can’t even form a government and some extremist is making his own referendum. Peace comes first, or at least to me.
I think it is good that we reach a point using ballot boxes, as means to electing our government, but if there is anything good which might come out of this process, it is that people can openly talk about the scale of fraud and rigging, which is going on. Most of the newspapers cover the scale of that, many columnists openly discuss all that. At the same time that gives us a chance to learn some of the NCP fraudulent tricks, and to discover that they are not smart enough to conceal their fraudulent acts, as it so open even children notice them.
I decided not to vote because I discovered that in the neighbouring constituency, there is big fraud in the voters registry, the discrepancies between the first list and the last one is 2828 names added, and I have asked 5 people whom I know to provide me with their registration numbers, and as they most likely not to vote for the NCP their names have been deleted from the voters’ registry. That makes the level of the fraud even higher. One of the candidates in this constituency (2 Omdurman) filed a case with the NEC and asked for the voting to be suspended but until now they have done nothing. We gave all the documents to the BBC World Service team and they went to the NEC office to ask for explanation but their answer is NO COMMENT.
I was in the DUP offices in Omdurman Umbada last night talking to some of their candidates and activists about the election. One man in his 70s said to me, we know the NCP is rigging the election as we have seen that in front of our eyes, and we decided to continue the election to allow our young activists to learn some of the NCP fraudulent tricks, but our struggle for freedom will continue and this is only one step on the way, at the end people will prevail. I think that is a very brave comment, and makes me strongly believe that, aggression, injustice, will definitely come to an end.
The NCP leaders are talking about triumph in the election, but in my view that shows the scale of the moral descent Sudan is facing. What role model are we giving to our young generation? Are we telling them that cheating, deception and frauds are acceptable practices? And at the time when they are watching the whole word impressed by democracy and democratic values just 3 weeks ago, when we have seen Iraq, after all the killing is now over, moving towards genuine democracy.
From here in sun-drenched Warrap State (South Sudan), there is an air of celebration amongst the village as they wander the dusty tracks to vote under the trees. Around the polling stations, men and women form a chattering carpet on the floor, as if the village was sharing a large, food-less picnic. Iâ€™m sure there has even been more singing in the village these last few days. Yesterday, there was no voting as ballot papers had run out. While people waited for them to be delivered from Kuajok (Warrap State’s capital), there remained an emotionless sense of calm and contentment. This is a community that lost sons and thousands of cattle in this springâ€™s inter-tribal raiding, but that seems unfazed by what they see as their newest practical lesson in South Sudanese nationhood.
As an answer to your question: Who is voting? let me tell you that it is a long list that includes minors and dead people. Minors voting is evident in many places but as for the dead, two cases were reported in Almatoury, Gezira state and 200 in Darfur according to local press.
It is interesting that in the U.S. media there are more and more assertions that President Bashir would have won the election, even without election rigging. This is, in effect, asserting the legitimacy of Bashir’s natoinal leadership. This opinion, first appearing as a ‘trickle” in the American media, and now increasing to a small stream, may be signaling a possible U.S. foreign policy shift towards President Bashir, and therefore, Sudan.
The big U.S. oil companies have been on their knees begging Washington for years to have the sanctions against Sudanese oil lifted. And it is interesting to note that some of the more conservative newspapers (which are those most likely to be supportive of big oil companies) have been the ones to float the stories about Bashir’s popularity among the electorate.
After Bashir’s win, it will be interesting to take note of the language that comes out of Washington about its position in regard to Sudan and Bashir’s leadership.
This is not about safeguarding an election, we had elections before in the Sudan, and with our modest capacities then, and without observers, we run them in a evry professional,fair and transparent manner.
In this case, I am concerned with motives that are far beyond elections and certainly not seeking democarcy at all, I think Naomi above has hinted to what I refer to (South Sudan nationhood).
It is no secret that the world seems to be talking about two Sudans already.
I am afraid that for some ,the only significance and value of this elections is that they lead to the referandum which will seal the division of the Sudan, and as usual they dont care where that division would lead and where will it stop.
If some have interests in the South and Christianity, others have interests in Dar Fur, and these are the same people whose blindness was about to lead them to war in Fashoda before and whose interests led them to divide Senegal and Gambia, and who wanted an Independent Biafra before.
I hope I am wrong, OH GOD, i really hope I am wrong.
A comparative viewfinder might help. Carter probably established his Centre because in the early 1960s he was a victim of electoral fraud. Ballot boxes were opened and tampered with openly , death threats were made. He won a case after appeal and went on to become Governor and President. He knows that wrong labelling or misplaced ballot boxes ( which his team saw in Sudan) are not enough to condemn the whole process in Sudan.
Moreover the history of the USA is full of flagrant ways in which Yiddish -speaking Jews, Chinese and others were denied the right to vote . Our relatives the blacks were excluded even after 1964 by many subtle and other means.
The way women are empowered in sudanese elections must influence observers. Proportional representation is a demand in the UK. Even J. Frazer the most hard-line voice of the defeated neo-cons in America has lamented the fact that the opposition in Sudan has been ” further disenfranchised by their own action”. Hear Hear.
Anyway; Bashir has now made it clear that he will offer his adversaries seats in the cabinet. This is the act of a statesman . Those who engage in the politics of brinksmanship and adventure had better come to their senses and make peace with him and with the CPA which he defends.
Politics is not about revenge or stubborn convictions . We have called for peace , democratic transformation and the basis of a fair decentralised country, The NCP has agreed. No need to move the goal posts now .
Darfur is a very flimsy excuse. Firstly: the people there have registered and voted . Secondly ;previous elections have taken place during the civil war in the South.
What cannot be denied is that these elections have sparked a great degree of political mobilization unseen in Sudan in years. Posters and billboards of candidates all over. Discussion and debates in familial and social gatherings. Political jokes text-messaged, emailed and posted on Facebook. Creativity in both govt and oppossion grassroots activitsm. Scores of newspapers of all pursuasions ( I buy at least three each day to get a balanced picture, sometimes more). Certainly a step in the right direction.
You’ve made an interesting observation with regards to the near-linear relationship between media coverage and corporate opportunism. I interpret the newspaper articles as influencing public opinion to the effect of: “so you see ladies and gents of the free world, this is a divided nation after all. Northern Sudanese have been an impediment to the South all along”. There is a mixed bag of truths and lies in this conjecture.
To David and Oscar:
You both bring up excellent and symmetrical observations.
To the NCP’s credit, they have not only calculated that the powers that be are eerily quiet because of a tacit commitment to ensure a secession referendum outcome, but they are also acting on it by signaling a willingness to coalesce the government. Is it a real attempt at preserving unity and peace? Or is it a lame duck attempt at deflecting public perception and resentment towards a future secession outcome? I will invoke Ockham’s razor here, for the sake of discussion, and as is recommended for all matters characteristically Sudanese and obscure. I welcome Bashir’s statesmanlike announcement. However, we politically observant members of the public can only wait to see the substance of it through actions. Ofcourse, the outcome will also hinge on the cooperation (i.e. willingness to politick) of the opposition. I sincerely hope that the SPLM stop prevaricating and resume leading. Exercising civic duty, responsibly, is important for a functioning democracy. The spirit of the CPA must live, even if the political morphology has changed in a post-election and pre-referendum Sudan.
Two thorny singularities remain for the North: the question of Islamism and the question of its ideological backers. The NCP will never promote, protect, and ensure individual freedoms to the extent of empowering the public and tipping Sudan over the patronage system to a goodwill system supported by good checks and balances. Furthermore, this issue does not resonate strongly in the minds of the cash strapped Khartoumites. But can it? Who are Bashir’s supporters? Is the North really divided between Bashir’s supporters and detractors? What is the nature of support for the NCP? What are the asymmetrical number of supporters and detractors (if at all)? Time will tell.
Will the SPLM continue playing checkers to the NCP’s chess? It seems that economic and political pragmatism and self-indulgence have subsumed ideology. A once strongly united party, the SPLM have been strangely ambiguous in the past few weeks. A sneak peak at things to come?
The North is politically forsaken. It may continue to develop economically, but the ideological direction will ensure the constraining of individual freedoms and women’s rights. The kernel foundation of the NCP has no sense or moral grounding. The opposition secular Northerner Sudanese establishment (proudly educated by the British-colonial system) are old and organizationally dismembered. The X- and Y- generation of Sudanese in the North are washed out, burned out, politically apathetic, immediately concerned with money, and end-time concerned with the trip to heaven. We have no shot at a liberal democratic society in the short term. Sudan will not fall into the ashes. Unlike its past, it will not teeter economically either. What I see is a state of developmental paralysis. I’m not so sure what the outcome of a divided Sudan will have on North. I am even more unsure about the South.
All-in-all, however, peace and unity are valuable. They are self-rewarding safety nets. Every opportunity for peace and unity should be taken by all parties, no matter how disingenuous or calculating the proponent faction may be. Continual engagement is better than disengagement. I sincerely hope that the South considers this now, during its period of ‘next-move’ calculations, and then, during the referendum. On the later point, I believe that there is a great threat of the slogan “We know what we fight for” becoming obsolete, and along with it the hopes and dreams of many Southerners, as political greed fills the vacuums left by structural weaknesses. However, with unity, comes federal competition. Continual contention with the North can keep the South united and inspired to develop, modernize, and empower the region’s peoples, while keeping sight and mind on the matter of ‘the devil over yonder’.
Better the devil you know, for now.
You have to realise the truth, if it were up to North Sudan on its own Bashir would win. Rigged or not ! The other Northern opposition parties have nothing to offer but criticism of the Government. I have not heard one clear plan for solving Sudanâ€™s diverse problems. The North see Bashir as a stabilizing power, even if its only in the North. The opposition parties Umma, DUP, Communist whatever ! are delusional if they think they have the grass roots majority in Sudan. Let them say what they want to say, we know, they know. They no longer have the respect or the patience of the Sudanese people especially in the North.
You the people of Sudan, especially in the South. Want to keep Sudan stable atleast until the referendum goes ahead. Bashir is your best option. Its held together for 5 years, i think it can hold on to a few more months. If Bashir goes and the NCP and Army are destabilized. Then you will see really problems in Sudan, i dont think anyone can take that chance. Somalia will look like a back yard pool party !
The SPLM honestly are greedy. The want the pie baked and eat it. They want to Win elections in the North or nag and cry. And take full control of the South in a few Months, NO QUESTIONS ASKED !
I think the World is saying, bloody well get on with it ! We are sick of your people killing each other. Get these elections over with, let Bashir Win whatever and let the Southerner have their state. As long as it is all done peacefully ! They realise that destabilizing Sudan now, will affect a great area of Africa and it will spread. Thats oil and valuable resources going to waste ! At least not for China.
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ukraine, Iran, Iraq, Kenya and many more. There were elections and there were complaints and rigging in all. But they didnâ€™t go out killing each other and dividing countries over it.
I partially disagree with you on the matter of wholehearted support for Pres. Elbashir. We must qualify the type of support. Is it support for the interim period? Is it a longterm political and ideological support? Or is it a short term support based on economic self-interest as well as the trickle-down post-oil discovery prosperity that has injected economic activity into some parts of the North?
What percentage of eligible voters have registered? (I certainly did not).
What percentage of of registered voters voted?
You are right. The sectarian parties are a cancer to our political discourse. And that’s putting it too harshly either. There are insidious men like Turabi who are truly atheists but advocate a platform of Islamism. And then there are obscurantist spiritual leaders like Saddiq elMahdi. Overall, the opposition parties do not offer solutions and have a long history of pandering to the morsels of political inclusion Elbashir has offered when seeking independent insights. And there are countless Northerners who write, opine, and lobby bleeding-hearted western liberals, in the name of freeing Sudan. But all they do is unwittingly or knowingly engage in brinkmanship. And then there are there the enlightened minority of Northerner intellectual heavy-weights, who are incapable of uniting and offering a coherent political platform. The south, in their God-given and hard earned right, will vote for secession. We are forsaken.
Elbashir is supported in light of these observations, not in spite of them. I do not believe the majority of the North support Elbashir. But what will it take for real iron-minded leaders to emerge?