A bishop in Sudan has expressed concern that allegations over foul play in the nation's recent elections could stir up a major political dispute and hinder progress towards democracy.
Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok Kur of Khartoum recently told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about his fears, saying that alleged electoral malpractice and last minute withdrawal of candidates has shaken the confidence of voters in Sudan.
Polling took place on Sunday, April 11, in the first nationwide election since 1986. ACN reported that the election is considered crucial concerning next January's referendum in which southern inhabitants will decide whether to remain part of a united Sudan or create a new country for themselves.
Bishop Adwok told ACN that alarm has been raised over reports of voter intimidation, poor organization of electoral ballots and stations and vote rigging by the National Congress Party, which currently governs Khartoum.
“The reports of irregularities make one wonder whether in the end these elections will qualify to be called ‘free and fair,’” he said on Thursday. “When the election results come out, it is quite possible that there will be some tension and indeed confrontation between the contesting parties. The electoral fairness will certainly be brought into question.”
The prelate also discussed his worry that the recent election would fall short of the recommended political development as set forth in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement Act (CPA). The Act was established in 2005 and ended more than 20 years of civil war between the Khartoum-based Islamic government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the rebel movement in the south. Both groups have been granted a temporary power-sharing deal.
Addressing the withdrawal of candidates, which he says has been a huge setback to many voters, the bishop stated, “For us here in the north, it seems there has been a lack of candidates willing to promote a vision of Sudan which is multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-religious as the interim constitution states.”
“People want unity in diversity,” Bishop Adwok added. He also said many people were distressed when the SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) withdrew its candidates.
“After the SPLM pulled out, people in Kosti – including Christians – have been asking ‘What should we do.’”
Despite the difficulties, however, Bishop Adwok claimed that the people were determined to vote. “The attitude of the people is really a clear sign that they wanted these elections,” he asserted. “They want real democratic transformation to take place. This comes after years of military dictatorship for the North.
“For the South, they want the freedom to decide their destiny in the forthcoming referendum elections in 2011.”
“This election is a trial ahead of the referendum. It will enable us to see for ourselves the performance of those candidates who are elected in the run up to next January,” Bishop Adwok concluded.