Sudan goes to the polls

Posted by Sarah Caughey on Fri, 16 Apr 2010 | 0 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

Sunday 11th April 2010 saw the opening of polls across Sudan in the first multi-party elections since 1986. The elections which took place over five days, involved some 16 million people who had registered to vote visiting polling stations across the country to choose candidates and parties at all levels of Government, from the President to local governments. It was a complex process which required some participants to cast 12 different votes.

These landmark elections in Sudan represent a critical moment in the history in the largest country on the African continent. These polls are part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that was signed in 2005 to bring an end to the 21years of civil war between the North and South of Sudan. The polls had previously been delayed on several occasions due to concerns over ballot fraud and security.

These events will have a significant impact on a referendum due to be held in January 2011 that is also required under the terms of the peace agreement. During the elections voters in Southern Sudan were asked to elect a leader for the semi-autonomous region. The Referendum in January will ask whether Southern Sudan should split from the rest of the state.

The BBC website reports that the opening of the polls was not without incident as voters were found to be using the wrong ballot papers, incorrect names and symbols were listed on ballots, and names were missing from the electoral rolls. In some areas ballot papers had not arrived, or not enough ballots had been delivered, for the opening of the polls, or voting boxes were missing, or indeed that the polling stations were not open or had been moved without notice. In response to this, Sudan’s National Election Commission announced a two-day extension to the planned three-day period of voting. Furthermore, the BBC also reports that opposition parties have denounced the elections, boycotting all or part of the polls and called for new polls to be held. (Source BBC News)

Bishop Hilary Adebe of Yei Diocese in Southern Sudan reports that the opening of the polls in the Diocese saw long queues of voters beginning to form at 7.30am. The Bishop spoke on a local radio station, encouraging and exhorting voters to go to the polls and to do so peacefully. He shares that amongst those waiting their turn at the polling stations were large numbers of women and young people. Bishop Adebe reported that there had been no disturbances during the opening days of the election and held “a great hope for a peaceful election”, stating:
bq.“These elections are being budded the first of their kind in the history of the Sudan with a powerful force from Southern Sudanese having been allowed to vote for the first time in their lives. The voters came out in large numbers to disprove media speculation of violence erupting during the poll.”

Bishop Anthony Poggo of Kajokeji Diocese, reports that the election period in the diocese was peaceful, stating “The first three days of polling went well apart for names appearing in wrong polling stations.” The church in Kajokeji had an important role to play in the elections, with the Bishop speaking on the local radio stations and some ECS churches being used as polling stations. However, using churches as polling stations presented several important issues:

bq.“One of the issues that came up is on the use of the ECS churches that have selected as polling centres especially as affected prayers on Sunday. I gave guidelines that for the few churches that have been elected as polling centre, let them have prayers between 6 and 8 AM or choose any nearer facility like an old church or a school for their prayers that Sunday. I had to make this compromise as I did not want the church to be blamed for denying their facility to be used on this national event which we have waited for 24 years.

“The church would need to take this up this with the National Election Commission (NEC) that in future, voting should not be undertaken on a Sunday as this affects Sunday worshippers and also the use of their facilities.”

Talking about the impact of these elections, Regional Mission Partner for North and Central Africa David Gough explains,
bq.“While these elections are the first opportunity in 24 years for the Sudanese people to vote and unquestionably a significant occasion with many dressing up in their Sunday best for the occasion, most commentators believe that the ground-breaking moment for the country will be the 2011 Referendum.”

Prayer Points

Give thanks for a peaceful election period across north and south Sudan.

Fairness throughout the voting and counting procedures, giving thanks for those who helped to observe the elections.

Pray for peace and safety across Sudan as the results of these elections are announced in the days ahead.

For the future of Southern Sudan and the referendum in January 2011, particularly in the wake of these elections.

For our Global Partners in Sudan, and give thanks for the role of the Church in encouraging people to vote and to do so peacefully.

For more information about Sudan and our Global Partners, please click here.

The BBC news website is following the elections and has a range of video reports, pictures and updates from across Sudan. Click here to visit the Sudan election pages

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