People from all over Africa called in to the BBC’s “Africa Have Your Say” on Wednesday to weigh in on how the Darfur conflict will affect April elections in Sudan.
The questions posed by the BBC prompted listeners to consider how the conflict in Darfur factors into Sudan’s upcoming election, but the conversation veered toward whether the current environment in Darfur would allow for truly representative elections. One point was certain: The respondents almost uniformly believed that the people of Darfuris would not be given a proper opportunity to voice their opinions come voting day, mentioning intimidation by the ruling party, not being registered, election fraud, or other issues among the hindrances. One young man called in to say, “All of these politicians, they never use the right democracy. They never give us a chance to do what we need…we need new ideas, we need new concepts, we need to live as human beings, not as animals.” Here were some of the other memorable comments made by callers:
“Darfurians don’t have faith in the government…some way the election will be manipulated.” – Alicia, Kenya
“In order for Sudan to be at peace all Sudanese need to be able to register.” – Mohammed, Guinea
“The problem of course is who is going to ask these important questions without fear for their lives.” – Text message from Kenya
“If there were freedoms in Darfur, then yes, maybe the elections would help.” – Rob, South Africa
The consensus of the conversation was clear: While many callers see the April elections as a necessary step in the Sudanese peace process, they do not believe that the people of Darfur will benefit from the process. A few went so far as to say that elections would never bring about positive changes in Darfur so long as the country is run by the only sitting head of state wanted by the ICC, and while Darfuris continue to face insecurity and violence.
The show, which also featured commentary from Sudanese Deputy Ambassador to the U.K. Mohammed Zarough, rebel spokesman Ahmed Idris, Umma Party Secretary Miriam al-Mahdi, and Tom Potis of Human Rights Watch, was certainly insightful and warrants listening to in full. After listening to the full hour, key takeaways were that many callers are not optimistic about the outcome of the April elections and believe that peace in Darfur—which will certainly be an issue in the elections—is vital to achieving lasting peace in Sudan.
Photo: Creative Commons