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Sudan: "Too Big to Fail?"
Apr 25, 2010 (100425)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
In the minds of its sponsors, the CPA [Comprehensive Peace
Agreement] is "too big to fail." ... The bailout is simple: support
the SPLM/NCP to muddle through no matter how flawed or sham the
elections may be. - - Ahmed Elzobier in Sudan Tribune, April 21,
Final results have not been released from the elections in Sudan
that took place over four days from April 11-15, but several
conclusions are clear, even if seemingly contradictory. The
election process, particularly in the pre-election period, was in
no way free or fair. Nevertheless, the results will be accepted
both by major Sudanese parties and by the international community"
as a successful "milestone" in implementation of the Comprehensive
Peace Agreement. The ruling parties in Khartoum and Juba will
continue to participate in a "Government of National Unity," and
the threat of a new war will be postponed as preparations continue
for a referendum in 2011 to decide on the secession of Southern
As commentator Ahmed Elzobier remarked, the elections mean
different things to different stakeholders, for most southerners a
step on the road to independence, for President Omar al-Bashir a
validation as "the only choice" to rule the country, and for most
northerners an occasion for apathy, cynicism, or disgust. Nesrine
Malik, writing in the Guardian on April 24, commented that "the
lack of viable alternatives and shameful withdrawals meant Omar alBashir
was found to win - even without vote rigging."
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a summary of election observers
reports, compiled by the UN Integrated Regional Information
Networks, a statement on the election by the Sudan Independent
Civil Society Network, and an analysis by Ahmed Elzobier.
Another AfricaFocus Bulletin posted on the web today, but not sent
out by e-mail, contains excerpts from a new report on prospects for
Sudan after the elections, entitle No Easy Ways Ahead. See excerpts
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Sudan, visit
For continuing analysis and commentary on Sudan, see
http://www.sudantribune.com and http://blogs.ssrc.org/sudan
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Sudan: Election Observers' Digest
20 April 2010
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
[For an earlier report by IRIN, with links to a wide variety of
pre-election reports on the electoral process, see IRIN, "Sudan:
What they're saying about the elections," April 7, 2010
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United
Juba -- Sudan held its first multiparty elections in 24 years on
11-15 April, but the election has been marred by opposition
boycotts and allegations of vote rigging.
Preliminary reports from the election observation teams have been
mixed. All note multiple cases of irregularities, but differ in
their degree of criticism and broad judgment of the process. Nearly
all agree the elections are a core part of Sudan's 2005
Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and even if flawed, represent
an important step in the implementation of the peace deal.
Here is a summary of the reports (in rough order of their release):
The election falls short of international standards, according to
The Carter Center, an organization founded by former US President
Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn. The Center said its 70
observers - spread across all 25 states - noted "important flaws",
including inadequate protection of political freedoms, problems in
the voter list, a range of logistical troubles on the election
days, insufficient transparency in the electoral process, voter
intimidation in the south, and the ongoing conflict in Darfur.
The Center, unique for having held an observation presence in Sudan
since 2008, commended the Sudanese people for a generally peaceful
voting process, and stated that despite their faults, "the
elections are a CPA benchmark and their conduct allows the
remaining provisions of the agreement to be implemented."
The preliminary statement from the European Union (EU) echoed
observation of many of the same flaws, but focused its blame on a
highly complex electoral design which it said led to confusion
during the process's implementation. Civic voter education was "too
little and too late" to make a difference, said its statement, and
polling staff themselves had difficulty navigating the complexity.
"The Sudanese people are to be congratulated on the patience and
forbearance shown by their considerable voter turnout despite the
challenges," said the statement.
The CPA remains essential for peace and stability in Sudan and the
The elections also suffered from a lack of strong competition,
according to the EU, which described the campaign as highly
dominated by the nation's two ruling parties. The team of 134
European observers also pointed to restrictive free speech laws and
the repression of independent media as tarnishing the campaign
period, but said the elections "pave the way for future democratic
A group of northern domestic observers offered especially harsh
criticism. Each step in the electoral process, from the census to
the registration, campaigns, and voting were characterized by
"major deficiencies", said a joint statement representing the
collective work of 3,500 local observers across the north, put out
by civil society umbrella group TAMAM, NGO coordinating group the
Civic Forum, and advocacy group Justice Africa.
"All these failures led to the corruption of the election process
and opened the door wide for malpractice and fraud," said the
report. The joint statement called for the "fraudulent" results to
be rejected, and called for "real" elections to be reorganized from
scratch following the Southern referendum and a realization of
peace in Darfur.
Preliminary reports from Sudan's African neighbours were less
biting. Elections in a place like Sudan - which faces challenges
due to its geographic size, underdevelopment, high rate of
illiteracy, an unfamiliar voting system, and ongoing and historical
instability - cannot be held to international standards by
developed nations with longstanding democratic traditions, argued
the preliminary assessment from the African Union's 50-member
observation team. The elections, it argues, are "imperfect but
historic", and a huge milestone for the peace and democratization
of the country.
The 37-member team for the Inter-Governmental Authority on
Development (IGAD), a Horn of Africa bloc of nations instrumental
in mediating the 2005 CPA, mostly concurred. Despite discovering a
wide range of irregularities and anomalies - including missing
names on voter lists, voter confusion over locations of polling
stations, delays, and inadequate privacy provisions to ensure
secret ballots during polling - the IGAD team concludes the
elections are "credible", considering the big challenges in holding
such a vote.
The 11-15 April poll was Sudan's first multi-party elections in 24
The head of a 50-strong delegation of observers from the Arab
League also gave the vote a largely positive verdict. Salah Halima
said that while the elections did not meet international standards,
they nonetheless represented "a big step forward compared to other
countries in the region" and did not "minimize the experience of
democratic transformation for Sudan".
"The Sudanese government has opened up space of democracy and we
must make the most of it. They [the elections] were an achievement
despite the deficiencies. There was no evidence of fraud, but there
were deficiencies and mistakes. These mistakes, however, do not
greatly affect the results," Halima said.
The major international guarantors of the CPA appear to already be
looking past the elections towards the Southern referendum. An 19
April joint statement by the USA, UK and Norway - known as the
Sudan Troika for their collective role in brokering the 2005 peace
deal - notes that the assessment of independent observers has been
that the elections will fail to meet international standards, but
called on Sudan to begin in earnest border demarcation and
referendum preparations. "The CPA remains essential for peace and
stability in Sudan and the region. We urge all parties in Sudan to
resume and accelerate work to complete its implementation," it
Sudan: Serious concerns over electoral process
Sudanese civil society networks
Pambazuka News, 2010-04-22, Issue 478
In the wake of serious doubts around Sudan's ability to oversee
free and fair elections, Sudanese civil society networks 'believe
that the voters of Sudan were unable to freely express their will
and select their representatives'. Spelling out the range of
problems impeding the current election, the group outlines a set of
recommendations rooted in ensuring genuine representation for the
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) represents an important
development in the recent history of Sudan. It ended the
long-running civil war, laid foundations for the Interim
Constitution and opened the doors for political participation by
instilling the ideal of peaceful political change. The agreement
also aimed to ensure free and fair elections through full political
and civil rights.
Based on these principles, independent civil society became a major
and effective partner in democratic transformation with the
ultimate goals of freedom, democracy and individual rights. This is
why we continue to emphasise that securing a political environment
conducive to free and fair elections means abolishing all
restrictive laws, reforming civil service, guaranteeing the
neutrality and independence of the National Elections Commission
(NEC) and governmental media, and ensuring that the people of
Darfur have access to safe and free participation.
Throughout the electoral process, civil society organisations have
remained a critical component of democratic transformation. They
have monitored everything from the adoption of the Elections Act to
voter registration and finally the actual balloting. This was done
to ensure, as much as possible, free and fair elections, as
outlined in the Interim Constitution, the Elections Act and the
international standards ratified by the Sudanese government.
For the past week, three civil society networks and organisations
have worked together in concert to deploy about 3,500 independent
local observers throughout the 15 northern states. These observers
continuously reported back what they witnessed at various polling
stations across these states. This broad coalition was composed of
TAMAM, a civil society group made of 120 member organisations, the
Civic Forum, an organisation that coordinated the work of 56
organisations, and Justice Africa.
After a thorough review of the reports that we received from field
observers and after reviewing the census process, the debate around
the Elections Act, the formation of the National Election
Commission (NEC), the demarcation of constituencies, the voter
registration period, the declarations of candidacy, the campaigning
process, and, finally, the voting process, representatives of these
networks and organisations outlined above have concluded that all
of the above stages were characterised by major deficiencies.
These deficiencies are as follows:
- The NEC conducted the election process based on a controversial
census. There were widespread accusations that the government
manipulated census figures for political purpose and there were no
mechanisms for verifying the final result. This affected both the
credibility of the census and, ultimately, the election.
- The NEC omitted voters' residential addresses without any
logical reason or justification for doing so. This made it
impossible to audit the register to ensure whether the names it
included are actual people.
- The NEC failed to publish the Voter Register in a timely or
appropriate manner, ultimately hampering the objections process.
More, the objections phase was shortened, further reducing its
effectiveness. Finally, the data in this register was processed
away from independent and party monitors, depriving the process of
- The NEC failed to define a cap on campaign expenditures for both
political parties and independent candidates in a timely manner as
required by the Elections Act. When these caps were finally
announced, they were so high as to benefit only those parties with
the largest amounts of resources. This, effectively, defeated the
rationale behind having a spending cap, which was, ostensibly, to
minimise the role money played in these elections.
- The NEC failed to conduct a proper voter education programme for
the whole nation about the electoral process. When the commission
finally launched its education campaign, it came too little too
late. Furthermore, some of the voter education material produced by
the NEC was biased to the ruling party using its election symbol,
as well as its discourse.
- The NEC ignored the principle of neutrality and equal
opportunity when it recruited state and district commissioners,
elections officers and the rest of its administrative body.
- The NEC failed to transport election materials and equipment to
the voting centres in several parts of the country on time. Names
in the voter register varied greatly between various versions of
the register. Also, names and symbols of some parties were left off
the ballot, in some cases, ballot papers had to be replaced, and
some centres received the wrong register.
- The ink used by the NEC to mark those who had voted could easily
be removed. Moreover, they allowed voters to use resident
certificates when voting, though such certificates are issued by
unelected bodies (i.e., the Popular Committees) that are appointed
and controlled by the government.
- The NEC and its High Committees failed to ensure that party
agents guarded the ballot boxes. This is a clear violation of
procedure. Furthermore, it did not protect candidates from
harassment and other threats from security agencies and National
Congress Party members.
- The NEC violated its own law when it allowed the armed forces
to be registered in their place of work instead of their place of
residence. The impact of this breach of the law is that it made the
registration for the armed forces a compulsory task, and it opened
the door wide for the ruling party to employ strategic voting.
All these failures led to the corruption of the election process
and opened the door wide for malpractice and fraud.
The overarching theme of the current elections is one of severe
moral and professional failure by the NEC which impaired it to
manage fair and free elections. This failure happened despite the
fact that the commission is sitting on huge financial resources
never granted to an elections management body in the history of the
For all these reasons, we believe that the voters of Sudan were
unable to freely express their will and select their
Based on the foregoing, we recommend the following:
- A full review and reconsideration of the entire electoral
process, including the results. The establishment of the new
government should not be based on these fraudulent results.
- The formation of a genuine national unity government agreed upon
by all the political powers of the country in order to lead the
country through the remainder of the transitional period.
- The dismantling of the NEC and a formation of a new commission
that can earn the public's trust and demonstrate moral integrity
and professional capabilities.
- A second census as soon as possible that would be based on the
highest possible professional standards. This second census must be
free of political interventions. Further, it should be nationally
and internationally monitored. Constituencies should be demarcated
according to this new census.
- A second voter registration according to international
standards, and an establishment of a permanent register that is
- An abolition of restrictive laws, the civil service and the
security sector so as to guarantee their neutrality and integrity.
- Serious efforts to be exerted in order to put an end to the
human misery of Darfur.
- A reorganisation of real elections as quickly as possible
following Southern Sudan's referendum on self determination, and
the achievement of peace and security in Darfur.
Finally, we would like to express our thanks and gratitude to the
international community, and especially international civil society
organisations, for their generous support of the Sudanese people in
their relentless struggle for peace and democracy, and for their
professional and financial help for Sudanese civil society. Without
this help we would have not been able to observe the elections.
Sudan's elections: Nothing was "learned from experience"
By Ahmed Elzobier
21 April 2010.
The author is a Sudan Tribune journalist. He can be reached at
April 21, 2010 -- You can tell that a country is in big trouble
when diplomats and foreign visitors arrive frequently, not to
discuss bilateral relations in the normal way, but to help in
resolving the visited country's own domestic problems. This is also
a constant reminder that the country, despite the many peace
agreements, is still at war with itself. Since January 2010, the
USA, China, the African Union, Russia, Britain, Qatar, Egypt, Libya
and Iran have all sent their envoys to discuss Sudan's problems.
Two peacekeeping missions comprising about 35 thousand UN troops
now operate in Sudan. Legions of think tanks and experts make it a
habit to advice the Sudanese on how to resolve their differences
and tackle their problems. All major cities in the region have been
visited by teams of negotiators from Abuja, Addis Abba, Nairobi,
Kampala, Arusha, Naivasha, Cairo, Tripoli, Doha, Asmara, Paris,
London, Washington and Moscow.
For the last five years this country has become the hub of talking
shops in the region as endless workshops, seminars, conferences,
meetings and symposiums have consumed millions of dollars with very
little result. The lucky elites, however, take pleasure in the fact
that they are needed by foreign organizations to talk about their
country's dilemma. Some of them become addicted to per-diems and
the trappings of free tourism. Those who need to be helped despite
their long titles and PhDs, seem helpless, as the country's
political class sets for itself a remarkably low standard which it
consistently fails to achieve.
Entering the elections period, the political scene in Sudan is more
than usually chaotic and marred with a range of conflicting
positions and confusing, farcical scenes all over the place.
Opposition parties are caught in an impossible position; they are
literally trapped in a binary choice of "boycott" or "participate"
in the elections. The elections themselves seem to mean different
things to different stakeholders. The SPLM view the elections as a
step towards their ultimate goal - the referendum - in January
2011. The National Congress Party (NCP) desperately wants to find
an illusive legitimacy at all costs and consolidate its power-base
in the north. Opposition parties want democratic transformation, or
even the overthrow of the NCP's regime in the north. The
Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) sponsors like the USA, UK and
Norway are keen to endorse the elections, regardless, as a
milestone in the CPA implementation.
In the minds of its sponsors the CPA is "too big to fail". The
United States, the CPA's main sponsor, and the European Union are
worried that their investment in peace in Sudan may be lost to
renewed conflict or instability. The bailout is simple; support the
SPLM/NCP to muddle through no matter how flawed or sham the
elections may be. "This Is Africa (TIA) you know", some argue
patronizingly, there is no "perfect election", it will be "a step
forward given Sudan's context". The ultimate aim is to achieve a
"milestone", that it keeps the SPLM/NCP in power until 2011 is
merely an unfortunate side issue. The US State Department assistant
secretary Philip Crowley was asked in a press briefing last week
whether the U.S. is going to be ready to sign off on the results no
matter how flawed the actual process. He answered, "What's the
Knowing this fact, the NCP's cynical politicians meticulously built
the infrastructure to rig the elections. In the process they
intended to use the opposition parties as tokens of legitimacy,
simpleton facilitators, support actors in an electoral pretence.
Some of them figured out the trick and boycotted the process, but
some deluded themselves and participated, as if they had never
heard of Sun Tzu's advice in The Art of War, "If you know neither
yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself."
Paul Collier, in his book The Bottom Billions, argued that,
"democracy is not about elections. Indeed some of the rules of
democracy are to determine how power is achieved, and that's where
elections come in. However, the abundance of resource rents alters
how an electoral competition is conducted. Essentially, it lets in
the politics of patronage". Paul Collier said that patronage could
be cost-effective if votes could be bought wholesale by bribing
opinion makers and community leaders while, in comparison, the
provision of public services is too expensive. The well-known
Sudanese journalist Al Haj Warraq also noted this phenomenon and he
wrote, "The patronage system in the centre has a network of
corruption inside all political forces and elites in Sudan,
including the marginalized elites. The patronage relationship is
also one of the causes of the latest confusion among political
parties towards the elections."
The election results in Sudan simply confirmed Collier's assumption
that patronage politics in a resource-rich country that severely
lacks any checks and balances will win hands down anytime,
anywhere, compared to any other form of public appeal to voters. As
dishonesty, corruption and fraud become acceptable they could also
be valuable assets for self-serving politicians - "anyone has a
price," cynically quipped Ali Osman, the vice-president and the
leader of the Islamic movement in Sudan. Elections in such an
environment attract crooks and the most corrupt are always the
winners, argued Collier. In stark contrast, in the first multiparty
elections in Sudan in 1953, one candidate was prosecuted, although
unsuccessfully, for buying tea and cakes for voters. Now you can
buy a whole village and nobody will care. Also, since 1953 Sudanese
public servants have organized five multi-party liberal elections
with a great degree of integrity and professionalism, noted the
Rift Valley Institute (the "Elections in Sudan: Learning from
Experience" report). But in the 2010 elections the National
Elections Commission has been accused almost unanimously by all
political parties for its incompetence, corruption and lack of
Most political parties, including the SPLM, and many Sudanese civil
societies and human rights organizations have cited scores of
worrying deficiencies with the overall election process, including:
the Elections Act, the formation of the National Election
Commission, the demarcation of constituencies, the voter
registration period, the declarations of candidacy, the campaigning
process, and finally, the voting process itself. Nevertheless, the
European Union Elections Observation Mission to Sudan at the Carter
Centre last week announced merely that Sudan's elections did not
meet international standards, a mild slap on the wrist for a
naughty little boy. Now, will the international community accept
the result? Of course they will, do not forget that it is a
"milestone" after all.
However, and most importantly, the outcome of these elections has
been regarded by most ordinary Sudanese in the north with apathy at
best, cynicism and disgust at worst. Sadly, it seems in 2010
elections in Sudan nothing has been leaned from experience. Sorry
Rift Valley but this student had failed the elections test..
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