Fraught Sudan poll imperils democracy

Election rigging and voter frauds, such as the ones allegedly took place in that Sudan this past week during the first multiparty elections in 24 years, are all clear indications of an unfair, non-free, non-transparent, non-credible, and non-inclusive election held in the absence of the rule of law.

Sudanese democracy is being killed by multiple assassins: the National Election Commission (NEC), President Omar al-Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-Democratic Change (SPLM).

Each of these three suspects in the election-rigging game has had a hand in unfair elections and, indeed, has contributed to the death of democracy in Sudan. The NEC in the north, by its decision to print presidential ballots in a government-owned printing press, opened the door to rigging and possible fraud in the creation of election materials. On the part of the NCP, its use of oil money and public services to fund campaigns is a crass destruction of the democratic process and a trampling of Islamic laws. And the SPLM’s harassment of independent candidates and orders handed down to ban the activities of its breakaway faction, the SPLMDemocratic Change, are an added false start to the work of democratisation in Sudan.

Democracy in Sudan is not yet fully dead; there are still signs of life and hope. Yes, it is true that first aid is required to give it life through recounts and the cross-referencing of voter lists with actual votes cast in areas where irregularities allegedly occurred.

But this unfair election may cause more harm than good to both the SPLM and the NCP, as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) partnership, as well as the road to the 2011 South Sudan referendum on independence, will be made that much more difficult. The indicators on the ground suggest that most of the south will vote for separation, even thought the north is trying its best to make continued unity attractive at all costs.

So what does democracy mean to the Sudanese — and, in fact, the continent? African leaders inherited democracy from colonial masters without understanding the concept behind it. In essence democracy, as applied in Sudan, is tantamount to a “copy-and-paste” of Western democracy and lacks solid beliefs, values and processes that are meaningful to the locals. As a result, these artificial applications of democracy remain vulnerable to the instinctive impulse of tribalism.

Democracy in Sudan is rife with tribalism, ethnic nepotism and ethnic favouritism. The only way ahead is one of equality, acceptance, respect, freedom, separation of religion from state, reconciliation, awareness of common values, responsibility for the country’s other cultures, and law enforcement against corruption and other ills besetting this nation.

Justin Laku is a founding member of the African Diaspora Association the founder of The Friends of Sudan

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