Tuesday, 13 April 2010


In response to the electoral process Sudanese groups are making amazing efforts to point out legal and administrative gaps and flaws, a tremendous undertaking by itself, including cumbersome video documentation on youtube and others, and detailed lists of errors and mishaps.
Despite relevance this approach seems to miss the elephant. The problem with the running election is not its legal and administrative flaws, rather the political context at large. Even if the elections were 'free' and 'fair' they remain questionable in principle. Judging by Sudan's modern history the current phase is one in a serious of foiled transitions from autocratic rule to elected government marred by war or consequences of war , 1953-1956, 1964-1965, and 1985-1986. In all three a decisive shift in power forced a care-taker government into office which shouldered the responsibility to organise elections and establish democratic rule. In all three however failure to resolve the civil war in Southern Sudan with all that it implies proved to be the demise of 'democracy'. Now, in modern Sudan's fourth transition the question of the North-South conflict awaits resolution via a referendum on the future of Southern Sudan. Power, though, has evaded democratic transition, bearing in mind that a balance of weakness dictated the terms of peace. As such the situation bears semblance to the Addis Ababa Accord of 1972, whereby the South gained autonomous rule but the North remained under dictatorship. Once hailed as an achievement of African unity the collapse of the Addis Ababa Accord initiated the bloodiest phase of the North-South conflict, which in turn undermined the short lived democracy of 1986-1989.
From the above the entanglement of peace and democracy seems obvious. The CPA, amongst other concerns, sought to address the two issues simultaneously and thus break out of the post-independence deadlock of war-coup-uprising via an agreed settlement of national issues.
The CPA however has evolved independent of popular decision, into a patchwork of secondary bargains between the two power blocs in North and South, most prominent of which is the last apparent trade-off between NCP and SPLM, maintenance of NCP autocracy as a guarantee for timely conduct of the referendum. Yasir Arman's latest comment on the 'deal' is particularly revealing. He argued that SPLM's boycott of the elections preserves social peace in Sudan. Well, in essence he is right, but in consequence he is surely not. First of all the SPLM did not boycott the elections, it pulled out its presidential candidate, and a faction of the SPLM in North Sudan acted against the declared decision of SPLM leadership and similarly pulled out of the electoral race, Darfur being another question all together. In South Sudan SPLM versus SPLM elections are up and running in a similar vein to NCP hegemony in the North. Second, by declining democracy at a national level the SPLM/NCP pact is not only endangering social peace left to the devices of a potential disenfranchised mob without clear political agenda but endangering the utmost gain of the CPA, the referendum, by its disentanglement from democratic transformation in the centre of power.

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This work by Magdi El Gizouli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.