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Sudan holds first democratic elections in 24 years
March 30, 2010

From April 11-13, all of Sudan will vote for president and for the National Assembly, the country’s first multi-party elections since 1986. The engagement of international and domestic monitoring groups – such as the Carter Observation Center, which has taken a leadership role; the Arab League; the African Union; and the European Union – point to the possibility of free and fair elections.

Although some fear that the vote will be rigged and that these elections will legitimize the leadership of President Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, Netherlands-based IKV Pax Christi and other organizations deeply involved in peace work in Sudan believe that it is essential to go ahead with the April elections, stressing that every element of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) must be implemented for the greatest chance at sustainable peace.

Obstacles to the elections include lack of voter education, the National Elections Commission announcement of thousands fewer polling sites than originally planned, infrastructural problems which could delay that release of the counting, and the ever-present fear of violence.

One step closer to sustainable peace?

The outcome of the April elections could have an impact, in several ways, on the CPA, which was signed between the North’s National Congress Party (NCP) and the South’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). While it is admittedly risky to hold elections during the interim phase of six years between the signing of the CPA in 2005 and the referendum in 2011 (which will be a vote between a two state Sudan or unity), it was the only way to move forward at the time.

The most important factor weighing on the election result will be that of political will for the CPA. IKV Pax Christi has repeatedly emphasized that the current CPA must be carried with total participation full-term and any alteration would most certainly lead to a humanitarian crisis. Naturally a peace agreement leading to a referendum will run smoother if the parties to the first agreement are in office up to and during the referendum but this is not the only option towards peace.

One concern is that of political will and genuine peace initiatives within the agendas of the newly elected officials. Their ability to resolve critical pre-referendum issues such as border agreements and disarmament will be crucial to lasting peace in Sudan.

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