Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Click on article to enlarge
My letter to the editor published in
The Newport Daily News

Weekend Edition
April 11 - 12, 2010


Mia Farrow put a film together, with her editor, to give people a sense of what the Darfur Archives are so far and aspire to be for Darfur's tribes.

Because of the sound and length, it might take about 10 minutes to download. The video is about 10 minutes long.
MIa Farrow documents traditions of Darfuris

It is very well done. Well worth your time to see.

About the elections in Sudan:

Darfur Vote Boycott
VOA TV to Africa
Uploaded by TV2Africa

ACJPS Records Continuing Violations in the Second Day of Voting
Contact: Osman Hummaida, Executive Director at
Phone: +447956095738
(13 April 2010) Following the second day of voting, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies noted that the National Elections Commission (NEC) had failed to solve many of the technical and procedural problems reported in the first day of voting. Although the NEC attempted to portray problems as isolated incidents, admitting problems in only 26 polling centres, reports from national observers and representatives of candidates indicate that the problems are widespread.
ACJPS has documented a number of abuses, including:
· Delays in opening the polling centres: A polling centre in Aldaim Area was opened at 12:00PM rather than 8:00AM as stipulated by the NEC.
· Irregularities in voters’ lists: The Osman Abashar Tayba Falatah Centre in constituency number 16 of Jazeera state had still not been provided its voter’s list on the second day of voting. In geographic constituency number 39, a polling centre at Alshaheed Altahir School, the voter’s list was missing all names starting with the letter L. In geographic constituency Um-Doum Al-dalang in South Kordofan, the voters list at the polling centre was completely different from the NEC approved list. In Kadguli in the Nuba mountains where the SPLM and other political forces have majority support, the number of voters on the list dropped from 38,000 at the end of the registration to 29,000 at the opening of the polls. Meanwhile, the Alrashad Area in South Kordofan, believed to have majority NCP support, had the number of the voters increased by 63,000 from the closing date of registration. In the Kalbos and Seriya constituencies in West Darfur, 200 names on the voter rolls were identified by local observers as individuals who had died years before the registration had taken place.
· Inconsistent voting requirements: In constituency number 2 in central Omdurman, the director of the voting centre refused to permit individuals to use residency certificates as proof of identity, despite NEC’s position that these should be accepted. Although the use of these certificates has been controversial, it is important that standards be consistently applied.
· Irregularities in ballot papers: The independent candidate Dawod Ahmed Eltahir, running in geographic constituency no 2, South East Elfashir Centre 19, Altaahiel Altarbawi area reported that he could not find his name or symbol on ballot paper and the NEC suspended the voting. In Soba and Albgogaa Alula constituencies, the symbols of candidates were incorrect. The SPLM and the Justice Party of Maki Ali Balayil believe that they have strong support in these constituencies. In addition, political party representatives were not allowed to watch ballot boxes at the voting centres, as provided for in the electoral procedure. In Alobied, centre number 16, the list of political parties list was not received at all. In geographic constituency number 34 of Umbada in Omdurman, the symbol of the independent candidate did not appear. In Wasat, constituency number 3, in Nyala, the symbol of the Popular Congress Party was missing from the ballot papers.
· Denial of access by representatives of political candidates from the polling centres: In Touti centre, in geographic constituency number 27, an electoral official dismissed Nahla Sluiman Alameen and Mohamed Salih Rafai, representatives of the independent candidate for the national assembly seat Suliman Alameen. These two had objected to many violations to the rules of voting (these objections had included permitting mentally incompetent persons to vote and the granting of residency certificates without provision of identification or registration numbers), and their camera was broken. In the same centre, two representatives of political parties had been arrested on 11 April, including Mohamed Isam of the Popular Conference Party. 12 Beja Conference representatives were kidnapped in Haya, in eastern Sudan. The Beja candidate today filed a complaint with the Port Sudan police.
· Irregularities in handling ballots: Polling boxes were not delivered to polling centres in Kawda and Buram in South Kordofan. In Constituency 8 of Jabra in south Khartoum, boxes were observed being handed over the wall of the polling centre by army officers who were not charged with elections duties. The Democratic Unionist Party candidate, Wagie Alla Mohamed Alhaj, withdrew from the race because of this incident, claiming that it was a clear attempt to rig the vote. The NEC acknowledged the incident, but described it as a mistake saying that the door was closed, which is why the boxes were moved over the wall of the centre. In El Geneina, a car without license plates carried away ten boxes of ballots without being accompanied by election officers or observers. The NEC claimed that this was a mistake.
· Security harassment and arrest: Badr Aldein Abd Allah Alemam, a nationally accredited observer in Khartoum State, geographic constituency number 32 in the Suba Alazhary Alsalamah area was prevented by national security officers from entering the polling centre and beaten. The NEC later intervened and he was allowed to enter. Two female candidates from the Popular Congress Party in Jazeera State named Amira Elsir Hassan Ahmed and Alniamah Awad Shararah in constituency number 5 of Alhasahisa Central in the Wad Bahai area were arrested to prevent them from observing the voting, despite prior authorisation. Two political activists were arrested in West Darfur, Mohamed Bahar Aldin and Mohamed Abd Alfaraj. Bahar Aldin had reportedly participated in an interview with BBC three days earlier in which he was critical of the election and NEC. On Touti Island in central Khartoum, the Popular Congress Party reported that two of its observers were arrested by security forces.
While the ACJPS welcomes the decision by the NEC to extend voting for two days to address logistical problems, it underscored that these procedural violations are not the only indicators of that the elections are not free and fair. Restrictions on peaceful political activity in the run up to the elections, manipulation of the census and registration processes, and lack of opportunity for meaningful participation by opposition political parties are all issues that need to be urgently addressed. The Centre reiterates its call for reforms in the voting regime in order to facilitate political participation, reform the National Elections Commission, and rectify problems in the registration process. All of these factors have severely circumscribed access for some voters, and must be rectified in order to allow for elections in which the will of the Sudanese people can be clearly heard.
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies is dedicated to promoting human rights and the rule of law in Sudan through ongoing monitoring of human rights violations in the country, promotion of legal reform and the understanding of legal challenges facing Sudan and national and international advocacy on these issues.


Obama's Sudan Fumble

How the U.S. president is bungling Sudan's elections -- and it will come back to haunt him later.


Source: www.foreignpolicy.com

Sudan is voting in its first national elections in over 20 years, and the process is playing out much as one might expect, given that the country's ruling National Congress Party is led by accused war criminal President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Much of the international reporting so far has focused on the numerous irregularities and technical glitches that have become apparent as voting unfolds, almost all of which (surprise!) seem to favor the ruling party. But this is an election that was effectively stolen long ago, as the Sudanese government steadfastly refused to implement the provisions of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that were supposed to create a free and fair environment for elections. Instead, press freedoms remain badly curtailed; the dreaded national security service still detains opposition figures at will; freedom to publicly assemble is denied; and everything from voter registration to the printing of ballots has been skewed to assist Bashir in his desire to stage-manage an election without actually risking a fair vote.

For veteran Sudan watchers, none of this comes as much of a shock. Analysts looking for democratic upsides have had to console themselves with the few examples in which opposition groups have gained a toehold of political space to publicly question the regime. What is more surprising, however, has been the muddled and squeamish posture of U.S. President Barack Obama's administration toward Sudan's election -- one that underscores a larger, ongoing struggle to place democracy promotion effectively within the context of U.S. foreign policy more broadly.

Obama's special envoy for Sudan, retired Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, no stranger to gaffes, triggered his most recent bout of eye-rolling in both Sudan and Washington when he emerged from a meeting with the National Election Commission 11 days ago and declared that the commission's members had given himboycotting the election "confidence that the elections will start on time and they would be as free and as fair as possible." The comments were unfortunate enough by themselves, but their timing also conspired against them; Gration spoke just as increasing numbers of opposition parties and candidates were either completely or pulling out of the presidential contest -- as did the largest party in South Sudan -- because the election was transparently neither free nor fair.

Why the rose-colored glasses from the special envoy? Gration is clearly eager to view this election as a necessary benchmark, a box to check, on the road to the broader issue of independence for South Sudan, which will be determined in a January 2011 referendum. Any suggestion that Sudan's election was flawed could provoke Bashir to try to disrupt the January referendum, Gration fears, and indeed, Bashir has made threats to this effect. Still, the imperatives of his short-term diplomacy seemed to be at odds with the long-term goal of transforming Sudan into a freer and more democratic place.

Here is where we see some interesting parallels with two other recent elections, both initially mishandled by the administration: those in Afghanistan and Iran. In all three cases, the administration seemed reluctant to acknowledge upfront that the elections were profoundly flawed, even though it had more than enough evidence to that effect. In all three cases, the administration moved only slowly to toe a tougher line -- after widespread howls from human rights activists, opposition parties in the respective countries, the media, and Republican critics were heard first.

Obama was wise to move away from the bellicose democracy-promotion of George W. Bush, and the president used his June 4 Cairo speech to make the case to the Islamic world that he would take a more respectful, nuanced approach to that region than did his predecessor. That is all well and good. But trying to reset the tone and engage in effective dialogue just won't work if it also entails obvious denials of reality. Pretending that Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his allies did not engage in widespread fraud did nothing for U.S. credibility or Washington's strategic partnership with Kabul. It shouldn't have taken days after the Iranian presidential vote for Obama to acknowledge that every vote deserved to be counted and that basic freedoms needed to be respected -- yes, even if his administration was having a high-wire dialogue with Iran on the future of nuclear weapons. Now again in Sudan, the special envoy shouldn't bless a tragically flawed election with the copacetic stamp of "free and fair enough" -- even as we ponder the likelihood that the country will split in two next January.

There's no need to sacrifice U.S. policy goals to lofty truth-telling. In fact, there's a case to be made that diplomatic goals are actually better achieved with frank honesty when elections don't pass the smell test. For example, if the administration had taken a tougher line with Khartoum about creating the underlying conditions for a free and fair national election, the country would already be further down the road toward creating genuine power-sharing in Sudan. Such an arrangement would in turn incentivize Bashir not to engage in adventurism around the upcoming independence referendum, and it would be an important step toward preventing future conflicts in Northern Sudan -- after the South heads for the exit. Would negotiating all this be difficult? Absolutely. Yet, grasping the nettle now seems far preferable to watching from the sidelines as Sudan descends into broader conflict -- again.

So if shouting about democracy from the rooftops à la George W. Bush was not effective, neither will be defending democracy in mumbled tones. One hopes that this administration has learned from its initial stumbles. Obama will have an important opportunity to get it right when he offers his first public comments on Sudan's election in the days to come.

Slideshow http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/04/13/indecision_2010

Click on post title to go to website with on-the-ground reporting and for advocacy actions.

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