Kitty Shephard, Blog Writer
Sudan has been under the rule of President Omar Al-Bashir since 1989. Al-Bashir’s presidency, gained through a military coup, is widely viewed as illegitimate. His recent re-election extends his 25 year rule and has elicited varied responses from the international community. Internally, the National Elections Committee (NEC) reported cases of forgery and a lack of transparency at most polling stations. Externally, concerns have been raised about the violent and undemocratic environment in which the elections were held. Canadian Foreign Affairs minister, Rob Nicholson, was among those condemning the elections, stating that Canada would not acknowledge the election results. The Troika countries (a Norwegian, British, American coalition to support and develop Sudan and South Sudan), along with the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU), have also condemned the election results, expressing concern at the repression committed by government security forces in Sudan.
The elections took place to in an environment plagued by continued violence between government forces and civilian populations. Human rights violations are rampant and information from Dabanga Radio and Nuba Reports detail daily attacks against civilians by government forces in the form of beatings, detentions, bombings and other forms of suppression. The ethnic divide within Sudan, a legacy of the Darfur genocide – orchestrated by Al-Bashir’s government – where African minorities were targeted by Arab populations, threatens to aggravate the conflict further. Rebel groups, who prevented several polling stations from opening in support of the opposition parties’ election boycott, are mainly of African ethnicity. Arab dominance in Sudan was reinforced when several Arab countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar expressed their congratulations on Al-Bashir’s victory. Chinese president, Xi Jiping, also released a statement expressing his congratulations and a hope that the countries would continue their close relationship.
As the situation develops in Sudan there is a clear divide in international reactions to the election. International bodies such as the UN struggle to create a consensus for higher intervention, while Security Council members such as China support Al-Bashir’s regime. The United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has been criticised for their inability to respond effectively to the escalating situation on the ground. Negotiations between the AU, UN and the Sudanese government have determined that by 2015, 15 000 UNAMID personnel will leave Sudan. This would be a huge detriment to Sudan’s future as it loses access to a large humanitarian network. Al-Bashir’s history of refusing humanitarian Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) makes this more concerning as it limits the ability of foreign aid to enter the country to help destitute populations.
The key to understanding and improving the situation in Sudan is through education. The voices of civilian populations must be heard through forums such as the independent media, through which daily accounts of violence are accessible. What the elections really mean for the Sudanese people is a further lack of representation and protection. Key policy makers who have acknowledged the lack of transparency in the Sudanese elections must be exposed to this information to fully grasp the severity of the situation in Sudan. With Al-Bashir preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians, the future of Sudan is at risk of further tragedy. Discussions of exit strategies for UNAMID forces and strong international support of the president’s re-election makes it crucial that the voices of Sudanese civilians are heard in order to demonstrate the full extent of the crisis in Sudan.