Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sudan Election Results and the Continuing Threat of Imperialist Intervention

Sudan Election Results and the Continuing Threat of Imperialist Intervention

Ruling National Congress Party victory will not appease the West

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
News Analysis

Final results in the Sudan national elections returned President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to power in Africa’s largest geographic nation-state. The ruling National Congress Party won an overwhelming majority with President Bashir gaining 68% of the vote and the First Vice-President and President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, took 93% in the southern region.

This was the first multi-party elections held in Sudan since 1986. The results of the 1986 elections did not resolve the internal political crisis inside the country and prompted a military coup that brought Bashir to power in 1989.

Since the early 1990s, relations between the Sudanese government and western imperialist countries have deteriorated. In 2008, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, issued indictments against President Bashir and other leading members of the government accusing them of war crimes in their efforts to battle the rebel movements operating in the western Darfur region of the country.

There was a marked difference in the responses to the elections in Sudan. The western imperialist states and their observers claimed that widespread irregularities occurred in the electoral process and that the overall outcome left much to be desired.

Some states, particularly the European Union, declared openly that despite the internationally supervised elections, the ICC warrants against leading government officials should still be acted upon by arresting these political officials and bringing them to trial in the Netherlands. Several opposition parties, based in both the north and the south of the country, echoed the complaints of the western countries and went as far as to say that the outcome of the vote was not legitimate.

Even though several parties withdrew from the elections citing a lack of transparency and vote-rigging, their names remained on the ballot. A leading member of the northern-based Umma Party, Mariam Al-Sadiq, which announced its withdrawal from the race prior to the election, said the elections were “morally corrupt.” (Sudan Tribune, April 26)

Nonetheless, the African Union, the regional organization that represents the 53-member states on the continent, hailed the elections as a major step forward for the people of Sudan. The AU has opposed the ICC indictments against President Bashir and other Sudanese officials maintaining that the court is jeopardizing the peace process and the overall political stability of the country.

Jean Ping, the AU Commissioner, said in a statement that he commended “the people of the Sudan and Sudanese political parties for peacefully conducting the just-concluded multi-party general elections. These elections constitute a fundamental milestone towards realizing democratic transformation…as espoused by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).” (African Union Statement, April 17)

In response to its victory, President Bashir said that the country would go ahead with a referendum on the future of the southern region in 2011. The CPA was the result of negotiations after a ceasefire between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the central government at the conclusion of a twenty year civil war from 1983-2003.

President Bashir said after the announcement of the election results that “You (the people) gave us your trust. I reaffirm I will go ahead with the southern referendum on time and complete the peace process in Darfur.” (Al-Rayaam, April 25)

The president continued by pointing out that the Sudanese people “have achieved this moral victory before the eyes of the world in a civilized, high class and shared manner.“ Both parties to the 2005 CPA, that has prevented the resumption of fighting between the SPLM and the central government, accepted the results of the elections.

In a report issued by the Sudan Tribune prior to the announcement of the results, it stated that “The incumbent president…is expected to remain the President of the Republic while Salva Kiir is expected to continue as First Vice President of the Republic and President of the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan. Observers say that the agreement between the two respective ruling parties in the North and South, committing themselves to acceptance of the results before they are officially released, signifies a giant step towards maintaining the status quo.” (Sudan Tribune, April 21)

Despite Election Attacks Against Sudan Continue

Even though there were many international observers to the April elections in Sudan, calls for the destabilization of the government have not ceased. The United States observers, including the Carter Center, expressed their reservations about the election process and its outcome.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said in a statement that “It is obvious that the elections will fall short of international standards that are expected of advanced democracies…The people’s expectations have not been met.” (Final Call, April 25)

Carter also expressed a lack of faith in the ability of the Sudanese people to conduct their own internal affairs by emphasizing the role of international observers. According to Carter, the role of western monitors were essential in ensuring a qualified acceptance of outcome in the imperialist countries.

“Their presence helps deter fraud and taking away the people’s rights to vote and international observers reveal lessons that have been learned, and how the future process of democracy can be improved.” (Final Call, April 25)

At the same time Carter “commended the Sudanese people for the generally peaceful nature of the voting process.” He also acknowledged that the more than 60% turnout far exceeded the normal participation of most U.S. national elections.

Other western-based institutions and regional organizations reiterated calls for the effective overturning of the Sudanese government. Human Rights Watch in a statement in the aftermath of the elections said that irrespective of the outcome of the vote, President Bashir should not be immune from arrest and prosecution by the ICC.

The European Union declared in a statement that it welcomed “the largely peaceful conduct of the recent election” but “expressed concerns about the deficiencies in relation to international standards.” (Sudan Tribune, April 26)

This European regional organization of 27 member-states also continued to call for the arrest and prosecution of the Sudanese president and other officials saying that “impunity for the most serious crimes under international law can never be accepted.” The EU called on Sudan “to cooperate fully with the ICC in accordance with its obligation under international law.”

Sudan has refused to accept the legitimacy of the ICC and maintains that the indictments against President Bashir are designed to undermine the sovereignty and independence of the country. Sudan is one of the emerging oil producing states in Africa and the government cites this as a major factor in western efforts to replace the current leadership.

In the United States anti-Sudan forces have criticized the Obama administration for not having a clear foreign policy toward the Bashir government. Last year Obama appointed a special envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, who has attempted to open up dialogue between Khartoum and Washington.

Congressional Rep. Frank Wolf, one of the U.S. legislative voices calling for a more aggressive stance against Sudan, recently stated in a letter to President Obama that Gration “with your apparent blessing”, has not enacted the right policy toward Sudan. Others such as New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has called for the bombing of the Sudan Air Force to hamper its ability to act against rebel groups in Darfur. (The East African, May 10)

In a statement by the so-called Save Darfur Coalition, which is campaigning for U.S. military intervention in Sudan, said that “President Obama must lead world leaders to not recognize President Omar al-Bashir as a legitimately elected leader and to press for meaningful steps towards political freedom in Sudan in the run-up to next year’s referendum to determine independence for South Sudan. “ (IPS, April 20)

This statement by the Save Darfur Coalition came in the aftermath of the response by the White House to the Sudan elections. The Obama administration said that “The United States notes the initial assessment of independent electoral observers that Sudan’s elections did not meet international standards.” (IPS, April 20)

The White House continued saying that “Political rights and freedoms were circumscribed throughout the electoral process, there were reports of intimidation and threats of violence in South Sudan, ongoing conflict in Darfur did not permit an environment conductive to acceptable elections, and inadequacies in technical preparations for the vote resulted in serious irregularities.”

In conclusion, the White House statement indicated that Washington “remains committed to working with the international community to support the implementation of outstanding elements of the CPA and ensure that the referendum happens on time and that its results are respected.”

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