Winning Darfur

Like many such data-gathering missions, the national census that was carried out last April (and for which we are still awaiting the results) overlooked large suathes of the Darfur region. This was largely due to large pockets of insecurity throughout the state, as well as some rabble-rousing tactics by one or two rebel factions, who suggested (to people that would listen) that the census was nothing more that a sinsiter ploy by Khartoum to spy on the people of Darfur.

None of this bodes all that well for the elections, due to be held at some point next year (July is actually the month put forwards, but no one really thinks the elections can be held by then).

The main opposition parties – i.e., not the ruling National Congress Party – are starting to realise that stability in Darfur could equal more votes for them. Instability may mean Darfur being squeezed out of the election – and, if it feels thus marginalised, could provoke a bid for total seccession.

The last party that Darfurians are likely to vote for is the incumbant National Peoples Party. Twenty years of marginalisation by the government and propaganda by rebel forces in the region has rather left its mark on the people of Darfur. This has caused some to argue that President al-Bashir doesn’t really want peace. If the situation in Darfur remains precarious, then he can conveniently argue that elections can’t possibly be held in the territory, thereby removing millions of people that might be predisposed to vote against the government. Of course, Bashir does have this ICC thing hanging over his head – which means he doesn’t really want to be seen to be doing nothing.

Over the weekend, the secretary general of the Umma Party, the largest opposition party in the north, was killed in a car crash (see my article here). A former governor of Darfur (1986-1988), he was seen as pretty important for the garnering votes from the region. His deputy, Abdelraham Al-Ghali, put on a brave face when I spoke to him – and said that the death would have no consequential impact when it came to wooing the Darfuris. Apparently, in the 1986 election, the Umma Party won 34 out of the 39 constituencies in Darfur, and think that they can do so again. Which is astonishing, since it was Sadiq al-Mahdi, the party’s people, that embarked on a process of Arabization and marginalisation in the first place (people always seem to forget this). President al-Bashir was just continuing his work.

In October, the secretary general of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) flew to Chad for talks with President Idriss Deby about how the crisis in Darfur could be resolved. On the way back, he called in on Khalil Ibrahim, the head of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Privately, the SPLM are very worried about JEM. They are keen to see the different rebel groups in Darfur all unified under one banner, believing that, if this was done, the marginalised peoples of Darfur could find some solidarity and commonality with the SPLM, who have just come out of their own protracted war with the government. Ergo, the SPLM are expecting to have quite a bit influence in Darfur, too.

But they’re worried that JEM could stand in the way of this. Ibrahim’s rebel group has gained something of a reputation for being loud, brash and a focal point for any one with grievances in Darfur. At its core, it is an Islamic people, but according to many Darfurians that I speak to in Khartoum there are many others on the outskirts, who have joined the movement simply because they think it stands the best chance of standing up to Khartoum.

That is why the SPLM have been courting Khalil Ibrahim and holding meetings with Chadian President Idriss Deby, who, coming from the same tribe as Ibrahim, is presumed to weild considerable influence over the movement.

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2 Responses to “Winning Darfur”

  1. AK Says:

    Sorry to be so anal to point this out, but the National Congress Party not the National Peoples Congress is in charge. Great entry, like always! Please keep them coming.

  2. Mandino Says:

    Having an election in Sudan could mean peace, but I say that it’s also good to have the election but the outcome is yet to happen. I don’t think that putting pressure will really help though. There is one action that I can say that this site: http://emmaacademyproject.com/ that I happen to stumble helps relieve the stress there in Sudan. By helping the children in Sudan get the education that they need, It’s definite that the people of Sudan will have a very bright peaceful future.

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