African Union pre-election report says Sudan poll environment not free and fair – By James Copnall
An internal African Union report, the conclusion of a pre-election assessment mission to Sudan, concluded that that the polls would not be free and fair.
The report states that ‘the necessary conditions and environment for the holding of transparent, competitive, free and fair elections as agreed in the AU principles governing democratic elections have not been satisfied.’
The report puts the blame squarely on the government: ‘The existing government’s security measures put substantial restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly and do not provide an environment for free participation in the electoral process.’
This, broadly speaking, is what the Sudanese opposition and Western countries have said about the polls.
The government has shrugged this off as the work of disgruntled opposition parties scared of participating in the election and revealing their lack of nationwide support, or of foreign countries with bad intentions towards Sudan – President Bashir made a pointed reference to the former colonialists in his last speech of the campaign.
But it is harder to brush off this similar – if internal – judgment from Sudan’s African brothers.
The report also recommended that the AU should not send an observation team to the polls, in part because this ‘would send a wrong message to the Sudanese government, which will further embolden it to refuse to engage with sincerity other stakeholders in the national dialogue process aimed at addressing the numerous and perennial challenges facing Sudan’.
Alongside calls for greater AU mediation efforts, perhaps the most startling recommendation is for the AU to call for the elections to be postponed.
In the end, of course, the AU Commission decided to ignore the report’s recommendations, and sent an observataion team.
It will be interesting to see whether those observers will come to a similar conclusion to the pre-assessment mission.
You can read the report in full here
James Copnall is a journalist and author of “˜A Poisonous Thorn in Our Hearts: Sudan and South Sudan’s Bitter and Incomplete Divorce’. He is Editor of “˜Making Sense of the Sudans’.