In a statement released yesterday, the Carter Center raised some serious red flags regarding the Sudanese elections scheduled for 2010. In particular, the center warned that millions of people in Sudan may not have the chance to participate in the elections.
According to its observations, voter registration levels across Sudan have been uneven and parts of the country may register less than half of the estimated number of eligible voters. Particularly low rates of participation were observed in Eastern Sudan, North and South Kordofan, Darfur, and most of Southern Sudan. “Civic awareness of the process remains low,” the statement said, and is contributing to the low voter turn-out. “Without specific attention to reaching those most distant from the process, the registration exercise will be undermined.”
Electoral observers also noted that in Darfur, National Intelligence and Security Service officers, or NISS, were providing security at registration centers—an alarming observation given that the last U.N. experts’ report on Darfur documented “a significant number” of abuses by NISS, including the arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture of numerous individuals perceived to be political opposition.
The Carter Center may have only been guilty of understatement when it noted: “Given the continued tensions in Darfur, it is apparent that NISS is not an agency perceived neutrally by a substantial proportion of the population. Through their mere presence at centers, NISS agents may serve to intimidate some citizens from registering.”
The registration process, which began at the start of November, will continue for one more week, until December 7. The elections, a provision of the 2005 peace agreement signed between North and South Sudan, are set to take place April 2010. Given the conditions on the ground, and the lack of a unified international position with regard to the conduct of the election, things may get very messy and very violent before the voting is done.
Photo: Woman registers to vote in Sudan. (Maggie Fick/Enough)