Though areas of Sudan have reported peaceful elections, a bishop in the south of the country warns that genocidal violence could begin again. The transformation of political disputes into serious conflict is now “a likely scenario,” he says.
Bishop of Tombura-Yambio Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala, commenting in a statement to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), said people’s frustrations were heightened by allegations of corruption in the April 11-15 general elections. The elections were the first multi-party poll in 25 years.
President Omar al Bashir’s National Congress Party, the incumbent party in Khartoum, was victorious in the election. Sitting Vice-President Salva Kiir and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) scored up to 90 percent in its southern heartlands.
The election was marred by reports of voter intimidation, vote-rigging, ballot mix-ups and breaches of voter privacy.
An arson attack on a truck transporting ballot papers took place in Bishop Hiiboro’s region of Western Equatorial State.
“The election results may spark serious violence [soon],” the bishop told ACN. “The violence may be compared to nothing less than a genocide because there are many deep-seated animosities in the hearts of many people of different ethnic groups in the south.”
He warned that resentment festers over unresolved issues such as the border dispute between north and south Sudan centering on the oil-rich Abyei region.
“Until this self-inflicted crisis is managed in a constructive way, the possibility of the entire nation descending into the abyss is a likely scenario.”
The possible secession of South Sudan, due to be voted on in a January referendum, brings related questions of transportation and commercial relations with the north, oil revenue sharing and citizenship rights.
These issues were to be resolved after the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which gave semi-autonomy to South Sudan after more than 20 years of civil war between the Islamist regime in Khartoum and the SPLM rebels in the south.
Bishop Hiiboro blamed the SPLM for the lack of progress.
“The sole responsibility for this debacle lies in the hands of the southern Sudanese themselves both within the camp of the ruling party and other political parties.
“The senseless death of southern Sudanese citizens is going to be due to the inability of the political leaders to craft a better conflict resolution process.”
“Pushing differences to the point of national meltdown and exasperating tribal and religious differences just to come to power or to retain power at all costs is out of the domain of healthy politics,” he told ACN.
No people deserve this “toxic politics,” he commented.
The bishop’s warning of violence comes amid reports that the recent election took place peacefully.
Last week Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok Kur of Khartoum told ACN that violence was unlikely because the major political parties had too much at stake to allow the democratic process to stall.
The situation may be different in Bishop Hiiboro’s diocese, which has suffered atrocities inflicted by rebels in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Last summer the LRA carried out crucifixion-style killing in Nzara near Yambio, ACN reports. At about the same time, Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in neighboring Ezo was desecrated and 17 mostly young people were abducted.