By Dr James Okuk
As it is believed that history is a great teacher of references, I am interested in this article to recall and connect the recent history of the Sudan National Elections Commission (NEC) under the leadership of politician Judge, Abel Alier Kwai, with the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) led by politician law professor, Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil. I intend to draw some comparisons from the two exercises in order to evaluate by probability whether the later would succeed finally like the former despite the contestable but working (pragmatic) results. In the first place, the two commissions are supposed to be institutions of democratic practice in accordance with dictates of the law [i.e., the National Elections Act (2008) and the Southern Sudan Referendum Act (2009)] whose core terms of references are the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the Interim Constitution of the Republic of the Sudan (2005), and not the occasion for partisan political bickering.
But it should not be ignored that both the law and its references were the makings of the Sudan National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the so-called partners who negotiated and signed the CPA document in Nairobi Kenya in 2005 and committed themselves to honor its implementation jointly and fully in the interest of making unity attractive to the people. That is why, the logic of the matter tend to suggest that any divergence from the line of agreements of these two core partners translates immediately into very bad news against the success of any of its implementation trends.
The elections were considered as easily repeatable periodicals, and thus, it motivated some compromise and patience from those whose real victory was stolen. This fact contributed to the salvation of Mr. Alier’s neck and his NEC’s team from the public guillotine of anger when their votes were rewarded shamelessly to those SPLM and NCP politicians who didn’t deserved them.
However, the referendum is not elections and there is nothing called patience for it because it hardly gets repeated once it is gone. This is the nuke the SSRC is getting as it becomes the sacrificial lamb and the victim of the situation of the lack of convergence of the SPLM and the NCP with their respective allies from other political parties in the Sudan on unity or secession of South Sudan.
Starting with the gone case of the NEC, it could be authenticated evidentially that Mr. Judge Abel Alier and his team managed to run and finalize the results achieved in favor of the SPLM and NCP leaders whom he confirmed even by means of nook and crook to remain in power, while blocking any possibility of the opposition trying to change the balance democratically to challenge the survival of the traditional CPA’s cooks.
Mr. Alier and his team were very smart in pleasing the politicians and extremists in the government from both the NCP and SPLM by allowing them to rig the elections and get away with it through NEC’s endorsement of whatever has gone grey.
Had Mr. Alier not done this compromise of maintenance of the status quo in the South and the North, the Sudan would have been in serious troubles up to now because neither the NCP nor the SPLM could have tolerated to be defeated and thrown out of power by the opposition political parties and independents. Both the North and the South would have ended up swearing in many candidates elects for the same positions, especially the incumbent ones like what transpired in Cote d’Ivoire recently.
The NEC knowingly left the elections exercise very loose right from the registration of the voters to the scrutiny of the candidates, the polling and the counting of votes, the tabulations and the announcement of the final results. The ruling parties (the SPLM in the South & the NCP in the North) made maximum use of this given free opportunities without any single shame of the electoral sham, especially when the so-called international observers were carried away by the festive spirit of the Third World’s democratic attempts.
At the end of the deal, the two partners put Mr. Alier on the high table during the day of Omer Al-Bashir’s and Salva Kiir’s inauguration days as the VIPs of the elections victory. Up to date this veteran politician judge (Mr. Alier) remains their hero of success enjoying the cash and respect he got as a return of keeping the guys in power.
But will the success story of Mr. Abel Alier and his NEC’s endorsement of the April 2010 elections shams repeat itself with Prof. Khalil and his SSRC’s Southern Sudan self-determination challenges of dividing the biggest country in Africa into two delimiting poles?
I doubt because the professor is already failing to bridge the two islands of the SPLM determined separatists and the NCP uncompromising unionists so that bitter water ceases flowing between them. The processes and the result of the referendum registration exercise have turned out to be embarrassing as many eligible Southerners declined to participate or got confused by the SPLM to stay away from the exercise for one reason or another.
There are many legal objections already filed against the SSRC and the constitutionality of the referendum itself coming from some Southerners themselves who are afraid of the consequences of the independence result of the referendum.
Further, the question of free and fair conducive environment of the conduct of the referendum in Southern Sudan remains pending especially as bombs from the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) keeps on dropping in the areas suspected to be harboring the Darfur’s rebels, which might include Juba soon if it happened to be proven that some of the Darfuris rebel leaders and their body guards stay in hotels there.
The SSRC and its Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau (SSRB) have failed to be working on a teamwork basis and with contention of how some Abyei ladies and gentlemen got registered for the exercise which is never theirs. The Sudan Constitutional Court has also been provoked by Prof. Khalil, the Chairman of the SSRC, who ignored its adjudicating powers on the exercise and any relationship with the objections even if they implied constitutional rights of the citizens who feel that injustice have been done to them in the face of the SSRC officials.
Not only this but also the issue of the funding needed for actualizing the activities of the SSRC to the final end keeps on perpetuating itself from one stage to another while the oil money have not stopped flowing monthly in Juba and Khartoum.
Not to forget, the spirit of the South-South Dialogue and participation of all Southern Political parties in forging the destiny of South Sudan is being strangled slowly by the SPLM who tend to run away alone with the show despite its internal contradictions sent out by the unionists of Dr. John Garang’s Vision of United New Sudan and separatists of Dr. Riek Machar Vision of Separated South Sudan based on Nuer Prophet Ngundeng’s tribal superstitions. The NCP enjoys this SPLM exclusive attitude.
Given all these hard facts, it remains to be desired how Prof. Khalil and his SSRC and SSRB aggregate-members will please and keep calm those who hold the biggest power of guns and missiles in the Sudan without creating detrimental troubles at the CPA’s end-road. But it also remains a point of suspicion how the professor and his North-South divided staff will continue with the job in such a hard and devilish environment of work.
And can the started referendum exercise go along without a robust commission to manage it to the end? Only God knows best?
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