Post-election South Sudan: Fall-out or Fall-in?

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The dust has finally settled, well, somehow. Winners, whether fairly or unfairly, are now getting ready to take on the arduous task of preparing the South for a not-so-clean divorce from the North.

There have been a few upsets like the ousting of Justice Minister Michael Makuei Lueth by an independent in Makuach, Jonglei state. Central Equitoria’s Gen Kogga really struggled against his independent challengers. Actually, the independents did remarkably well and this should send a message to SPLM big wigs that if they do not carry out a radical internal surgery, this political hemorrhage will slowly kill SPLM and give birth to a formidable opposition in the South. Of course in itself this isn’t bad for democracy, but we are talking about a very fragile post-conflict state grappling with insecurity, nation- and state-building with a constant fear of the Khartoum-based regime, not to mention a complex history of inter-ethnic clashes.

I hold the view that unchecked political competition at this early stage of reconstruction and fragility is a recipe for cycles of ethno-political clashes. It is dangerous because Southern Sudanese are currently held together by only two things: the idea of a common enemy in the North and the common desire to separate from the latter. Remove these two and South Sudan would implode. The GOSS administration is replete with former generals, some of them are even allowed to maintain private armies. Think of Gen George Athor, Luk Jok, Paulino Matip and other former (sic) members of the SSDF. Compounding this further is the fact that the SPLA is not known to act as one unitary force.

But this election does provide a good opportunity to create a polity that has some kind of legitimacy in the eyes of the Southerners. This is particularly important in leading a post-secession South Sudan.

Finally, the international community MUST not be too enthusiastic to speed up the democratization process. Instead, their intervention should only be to supplement local efforts. We saw a good number of local civil society groups during the electioneering period. It is these that the international community, especially the INGOs should target for capacity building.

Because Southern Sudanese will drive change in South Sudan!


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!

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!

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


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.


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

Perhaps we should postpone the April 11 elections in Sudan?


In his Wars, Guns and Votes, Paul Collier explains some fascinating yet disturbing findings on occurrences of electoral violence in the ‘bottom billion’ countries especially in Africa. The main thrust of his findings is that democracy is very dangerous in poor countries leading not to pluralism and popular participation, but to polarization and instability and even over conflict. This has been seen to happen in a relatively stable democracy like Kenya.

Now substitute Sudan for Kenya. Throw in some uniquely Sudan complexities like:

1. This is the first time since 1986 that Sudan is going into a multiparty election. The current leader came to power through a coup in 1989.
2. A key aspect of the elections, i.e. the Census results of 2008, are highly contended by the two main principles to the CPA, the SPLM and NCP. These results are very crucial in determining the representation formula and resource allocations at the national level and local levels.
3. There are nightmarish logistical challenges like delivering ballots to very remote areas in Africa’s biggest country, assisting illiterate electorate vote (like in the South where they will vote in 12 ballots!), counting and tallying of the votes, etc etc.
4. The referendum less than a year away for these elections. In addition, should the South vote for separation in the 2011 plebiscite, there are some electoral posts that will have to be scrapped and probably another election could be called in 2011.
5. Darfur: hundreds of thousands refused to register fort he elections since they are holed up in IDP camps and want to vote in their original homes. The Electoral Commission did not make any provision for voting in the IDP camps, thus they will not be allowed to vote. So, a large constituency will essentially be excluded in the most important elections in the country.

As Savo Heleta puts it, these elections may turn out to be a destabilizing factor in an already fragile political and security situation.

Maybe we should wait till after the referendum; or just hold executive elections (presidency and state governorships?)