Thursday, September 4, 2008



NOTE: This article includes sections on SLM-Minnawi attitudes toward elections.

March 29, 2008 (LONDON)
Sudan Tribune

One of the major Darfur rebel groups today issued a strongly worded statement rejecting the upcoming census and elections and called on the Sudanese political parties to boycott them.

“The regime in Khartoum is excited about the census to put the Sudanese people and the international community in front of an outcome they want to see. They are building their strategy of a Sudan with a demographic structure in accordance with the theory of the National Congress Party (NCP)” the statement by Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) read.

“We will absolutely not accept this census” JEM said.
The statement by JEM is the latest in a series of positions opposing conducting the census or the elections at a time when Darfur is far from stabilized.

Sudan’s senior presidential assistant Minni Arcua Minnawi told Sudan Tribune last month that the insecurity in Darfur means that no population census can be conducted and consequently no elections.

Minnawi who is also the head of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) faction which signed a peace agreement with Khartoum in 2006 said that “you cannot have elections without Darfur. If you do, then this means that you don’t consider Darfur to be part of Sudan”.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the North and South in 2005 mandated that a census be conducted as a prerequisite for next year’s elections.
However the five year conflict in Darfur casted shadows over whether the census can be fair at a time when millions of Darfuris are displaced in and out of Sudan.
JEM said that the Sudanese government “is aware that the number of refugees and displaced have surpassed 3 million, a third of which are outside of Sudan. How can you conduct a census when 10% of the population is outside the circle of citizenship?No sane person can accept this census to occur at a time when the people of Darfur are crushed in displaced camps” JEM said.

Some analysts have suggested that the government would benefit from instability in Darfur to prevent a region which has historically been hostile to the NCP, from voting in the next elections.

Al-Tigani Abdullah, a senior adviser to Minnawi said that the NCP could not win the elections in Darfur unless under these “chaotic circumstances”.
“They resettled all these Arab tribes from West Africa in Darfur giving them lands and drove the original owners out. They want these tribes to vote for them in the elections” Abdullah said.

JEM echoed the accusations in the statements and said that the government “wants to bring people from outside Sudan in accordance with a demographic they have in mind and as a result build an essential block to impose a de facto situation on all marginalized people which is against their interests”.

Sudanese officials have made contradictory statements on whether census can be carried out in Darfur.

The Information Secretariat official At the NCP, Kamal Obeid and the minister of State for Information said that the general elections in the country can be completed without the participation of Darfurians due to the political instability in the region.

But the power presidential assistant Nafi Ali Nafi told the official news agency (SUNA) that “elections can be held in 99% of Darfur”.
Nafi said that security has prevailed in Darfur and that the fighting is confined to a small area in West Darfur as a result of Chadian support to Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel group.

“If for any reason elections can’t be held in parts of Darfur they can completed at a later date” he added.

Sadiq al-Mahdi, the leader of Umma party which is considered the largest Northern political party, told Sudan Tribune that his party is not prepared to be part of the elections if the Darfur crisis is not resolved.

The Umma party has a large presence in Darfur and achieved a landslide victory in the region during the last free elections held in 1986.
The Darfur rebel group urged "all patriotic brothers and journalists to stand together against the census and elections".

International experts estimate 200,000 people have died in the conflict, which Washington calls genocide, a term European governments are reluctant to use. The Sudan government says 9,000 people have been killed.