The African Union Darfur Panel, led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, recently announced its focus on elections in Darfur.
A VOA article quoted Mbeki:
"There is an immediate objective in front of us, Sudan is going to have elections in April 2010, what we must do is to assist everybody involved in that to ensure they actually have democratic elections. Successful democratic elections," he said.
Mr. Mbeki said one of the biggest challenges will be persuading the people of Darfur to participate, and to have faith in the electoral process.
"It is important that the people of Darfur are involved in those elections," he said "Otherwise you [have] this sense of exclusion and marginalization if the whole country goes to election to choose a president, a national parliament and so on, and the people of Darfur are not part of that process," he said.
In these brief statements, Mbeki places the onus of successful democratic elections on the participation of Darfuris. Unfortunately, he has it backwards. Successful elections can only be brought about when certain conditions have been met—when violence against civilians has ceased and the Darfuri population can carry out its lives without censorship or harassment. Convincing Darfuris to vote in a flawed election will not suddenly make the process free and fair; only finding a peaceful solution in Darfur can do that. Hopefully, this is not indicative of the AU panel’s overall approach to the elections.
Photo: Thabo Mbeki, leader of the African Union Panel on Darfur. (AP)