SPLM Dilemma

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The upcoming elections, if they go ahead, will be a huge sham, and only NCP’s Omar Bashir will come out of it happy, very happy.

The SPLM now finds itself in a huge dilemma: Proceeding with the elections

SPLM Sec Gen Pagan Amum

despite the evidence of flaws and obvious possibility of legitimizing Bashir’s grip seems irresponsible and betrayal to other opposition parties. However, boycotting the polls together with other opposition parties will jeopardize the referendum dates, something the SPLM has vowed to safeguard at all costs.

Omar Bashir needs the elections to proceed more than anything; they are more important than elections. SPLM needs the referendum more than anything else and couldn’t care less if NCP bungles the elections as long as they don’t touch the referendum.

So, it’s a catch-22 for SPLM!

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A good read…

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Occassionally I stumble upon great material on Sudan conflict and I take it upon myself to share it, in true African spirit! One such is a recent report by Maggie Fick, a researcher with Enough Project. Her report is quite incisive, deep and a good analysis of the current situation with a focus on CPA implementation, upcoming elections and the 2011 plebiscite which many believe will lead to the birth of a new state. Here is the link:

Preparing for Two Sudans, by Maggie Fick – Enough Project.

And about those elections; since we all know it’s going to be messy and there is virtually no chance of credible outcome, maybe we need to pose and ask ourselves, do we really need them?
If we are convinced that they won’t provide the results expected of a democratic process, why forge ahead with full knowledge of the inherent risk of re-igniting fighting in many parts especially Darfur?

GoSS President Salva Kiir

What if we just hold them for South Sudan and nowhere else in the country? At least we know that here, these elections singularly provide a great opportunity for Southerners to elect the leaders who’ll lead them into a new state-hood and therefore there’s need to ensure these leaders have wide acceptance and legitimacy. And to quote Alex de Waal, “In fact, holding the elections [in South Sudan] before the referendum is turning out to be a considerable if unanticipated blessing.The imminence of the referendum provides a stabilizing force, reducing tension and the risk of conflict”

It’s just a thought…

Of Free Elections and Bashir’s Warnings to Observers

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Sudanese at an elections campaign rally, South Sudan

A few days ago, a key announcement was made by over ten Sudanese opposition parties calling on the postponement of the April 11 elections.

Some of the reasons they cite in their letter is the improper census and voter registration conducted last year, repressive laws that have seen opposition party members being arrested arbitrarily, Darfur problem where an estimated 60% of the population did not even register to vote, unfair media laws that give NCP undue advantage etc.

Truth be told, the challenges facing the National Elections Committee are gargantuan. It is understaffed and doesnt have the capacity to conduct credible elections (even by the very low African threshold of electoral standards!).

Is it any wonder that the opposition has led the way on calling for their postponement? And quite telling is the recent report by the Carter Center casting aspersions on the ability on any meaningful credible being conducted in April. The latter even went ahead to call for postponement.

Predictably, Bashir reacted angrily threatening to ‘cut their fingers, put them under our shoes and throw them (foregin monitors) out of Sudan’. Hmmm…

So now everywhere he turns, Bashir is being bombarded with calls to put off the polls to a later date. Even his newfound friend in Darfur, JEM is calling for postponement of the vote in the restive region.

Analysts are however skeptical about this, since it could inadvertently lead to pushing back of the South referendum slated for January 2011.

Salva Kiir, speaking at the IGAD summit in Nairobi in March says the dates for the referendum can not and will not be changed. Quoth he: “The Southern people value the referendum more than the elections” Meaning, they are well aware of the fact that NCP will rig elections and cling to power. So why not salvage something for themselves like their right to separate?

Already, the SPLM and NCP have agreed to pospone the vote in South Kordofan following disagreements over the census results.

These are very tricky times in deed! To vote or not to vote, that is the question.

Perhaps we should give more attention to “elite bargaining” as the next phase of resolving this conflict and stop expecting too much on the democratization process? Maybe we need to focus on stabilization first; even allow the South referendum to proceed before elections…

What if SPLM’s Arman beats Bashir?

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The upcoming elections in Sudan are no doubt going to be both exciting and messy. Exciting because for the first time in over 20years, Sudanese people will participate in a democratic elections. (the last time they voted for a civilian president in 1986, he was later deposed in a coup by Omar Bashir 3 years later). They will be messy due to the logistical nightmare involved especially in the South. Add to this the fact that Southerners will be voting in 12 elections (president of Sudan, VP of Sudan, pres of GOSS, VP of GOSS, MP for Khartoum assembly, MP for Juba assembly, State governor, MP for State Assembly, County Commissioner, Payam administrator, Boma administrator …. and i forget the other one!) The ballot may have a list of over 1,000 names for one topick from! As if thats not bad enough, over 70% of the electorate can’t read. Oh, and lets not forget the inaccessibility of many polling centers in the South…
Houston, we have a problem!

Prospects of SPLM’s Yasir Arman:

Yasir Arman, SPLM presidential candidate

I think it was pretty smart of SPLM to nominate Yasir Arman to run for Sudan presidency as opposed to Salva Kiir. two reasons: one, it allows Kiir to do his CPA obligations especially in this pre-referendum period without putting him on a collision course with Omar Bashir. Two, it underlines the impotrance of referendum, NOT elections,  to the Southerners.
And so, the SPLM decided not to bring out the big gun for this aprticular battle. I don’t think SPLM is betting on an Arman win over Bashir.
But, what if he wins? First, can he? Consider: Arman will get a good share of the presidential vote from the South. In the North, Bashir and his NIF/NCP outfit are not exactly the darling of the Northern states. In fact, the parties with the most following are UMMA party (Sadiq Al-Mahdi, the guy Bashir ousted) and Democratic Unionist Party. So, Bashir’s expected landslide in North won’t be possible. That leaves us with Darfur. Bashir needs a landslide from this region. (you see why he doesn’t want to agree to postpone Darfur elections like JEM are asking?). If all goes according to his plan, he’ll get his “landslaide” from Darfur.
If not, we are looking at the following scenario: Bashir wins but not with the 50% plus one vote. We go into round two. If the Northern opposition parties form a coalition (and they could, they have been holding a series of meetings, beginning with the Juba conference last year) and nominate Arman (because he has wider electorate), ARMAN COULD JUST BEAT BASHIR!

Questions:
If Arman won,
1. would Bashir relignuish power. (of course no, because ICC is waiting in the wings) wins,

2. would the South still vote for separation in 2011 referendum?

3. what direction would the Darfur conflict take, bearing in mind that Bashir and JEM (one of the largest rebel group) has now signed a framework agreement for peace after a promise for perks in Bashir’s NCP govt? would JEM cooperate or work with the defeated Bashir forces to make Darfur ungovernable?

P.S. Yasir Amarn is NOT a political novice fished out of nowhere by SPLM. He is a political bigwig in his own right and has been in the liberation war alongside Late John Garang. Read his impressive profile here. He is Muslim and he holds to Garang’s vision of one united New Sudan, not separatist like his Southern colleagues (a la Pagan Amum)

IGAD Meeting on Sudan: Taking Stock of CPA and Upcoming Elections

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This week, Nairobi hosts an IGAD meeting aimed at taking stock of the progress (or lack of it!) made in the CPA implementation in Sudan. Needless to say, there will be finger-pointing as to who bears the greatest blame for the apparent failure and predictably, the gathering diplomats will ‘voice their continued support and commitment’ to the peace process in Sudan.

Pres Salva Kiir, GOSS

But perhaps the most glaring failure is in the post-conflict peace-building efforts. It seemed after the mediators brokered a cessation of hostilities and consequent demobilization, everybody forgot the most crucial element of the process: peace-building to ensure a sustainable peace in Sudan. Sudan foreign affairs minister Deng Alor put it quite succinctly:

“Peace is more than ending war”

But how do we make peace sustainable if the citizens themselves do not see the peace benefits? And how can they when they continue to lack basic necessities like employment, crucial infrastructure, primary health care, and most importantly security?

I believe the answer is in combining the ongoing state-building with peace-building efforts. Because there is no better way of entrenching peace than giving the Sudanese people tangible peace goodies like education and economic empowerment.

Elections

IGAD meeting must as a priority push the two peace partners to desist from incitement and aggression in the electioneering period.
Initially, I believed that the country is not ready for an elction and I have previously called for the postponement of the poll in this forum. But after seeing the elections in fragile Iraq, I think the Sudanese people can pull it off. Of course, there will be many shortcomings and allegations of rigging. But I believe that western backers should not give up and dismiss this as another hopeless African case. Instead, we should all intepret this as ‘baby steps’ in the democratization path. It won’t be perfect, but the next ones will be better and people will have had a semblance of legit leaders in place with a measure of accountability.

Looking forward

Why are the East African countries behaving as if they aren’t sure of the outcome of the 2011 Referendum in the South?

A new baby will be born soon, and we have not even painted the nursery!

“Wars and elections are both too big and too small to matter in the long run. The daily work – that goes on, it adds up” Barbara Kingsolver

Somaliland: Exemplary African Solution to an African Problem

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(work in progress…)

The Flag of Somaliland

The Flag of Somaliland

This Horn of Africa autonomous region broke away from the greater Somalia in 1991. It has a ‘hybrid’ govt featuring clans system and western-style system complete with a bicameral parliament.

In 2002, the first local govt elections were held followed by presidential elections in 2003 that brought in Pres Dahir Kahin making Somaliland a multiparty democracy.

Women line up to vote in Hargeisa during the first multiparty parliamentary elections in the breakaway Somaliland September 29, 2005.

Somaliland has been relatively stable despite having restive neighbours in Puntland and Somalia. It has a 65,000 strong armed force, a relatively well developed capital city of Hargeisa, fledgling education system, good airport (built by the US for their Columbian space shuttle), nascent but fast growing civil society, etc.

The question is: why won’t the international community recognise this state? No country has voiced its support towards Somaliland’s right to self-determination, except Israel.

Can we replicate what is happening in Somalia and indeed other failing or failed states in Africa?

UN Plans to Leave DR Congo. Is it the Wisest Decision? What Next?

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The DRC conflict is the most intractible in the whole Greater Horn region.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Congo (known a MONUC) is planning on an exit plan as its term comes toan end in May, 2010. Being the largest UN mission in the world with 20,500 personnel, we need to look at it successes and/or failures in the past 10 years it’s been in operation.

A Kenyan UN Peacekeeper in DRC

Successes? These are very few: MONUC has helped in shoring up the Kinshasa govt’s effort to rebuild especially in the Orientale (Eastern) provinces which are controlled by rebels and foreign armies (Uganda, Rwanda and at times South Sudan). Former rebels in DRC were also brought to international courts; people like Pierre Bemba and co were hauled before Hague judges.

Failures?
Where to start! MONUC has totally failed to stabilize the Eastern provinces. Civilians continue to die at the hands of war lords like Laurent Nkunda and Gen Ntaganda, Gen Murwanashyaka et al.
There have been numerous allegations against UN forces of engagement in gold smuggling, breaking UN arms embargos, rape and generally doing nothing to protect civilians. (A Congolese friend of mine told me in early 2009 how their village was overrun by Nkunda’s men and MONUC did nothing to protect them. And so the villagers held huge anti-UN rallies and went to the extent of attacking the blue helmets!)
Very weak mandate: The ‘Peace Enforcement’ aspect was missing from the original UNSC resolution that formed MONUC. Hence they could just sit back and wastch as rebels (and govt forces) raped and murdered innocent civilians.

I believe MONUC should be allowed to stay on despite their glaring failure.They should at least stay a bit longer in the Kivu provinces. But their mandate needs to be looked at afresh when the UNSC meets before May.

Laurent Nkunda

Deaths in the DRC Conflict: Are these figures real??
They (aid agencies, UN, EU, US Sec of State Clinton, etc) put the figure of deaths in the Congo conflict from 1998 to 2003 as a whooping 5.4 million people! You will hear these figure everywhere; their origin? A ‘major study’ by the International Rescue Committee (see it here: http://www.theirc.org/special-reports/special-report-congo-y ). Do the math with me: It means every year in the last 10 years, 540,000 peaple died. This translates to 1,479 people per day!

Of course we know that not all 5.4 million died from direct violence of the conflict; there is malnutrition, disease and starvation. But still, methinks even providing for these, 1,479 per day is way too high. And the Human Security Report of 2009 arrives at exactly the same conclusion: These figures could very well be less than a million. HSR point to a statistical error by the IRC… (http://www.humansecurityreport.info/)