Sudan

Disenfranchisement of IDPs risks creating more conflict in Sudan

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One month before Presidential and Parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in Sudan, a new report by the campaigning group IDP Action highlights how grave flaws in the counting and registration of voters cast doubt on the legitimacy of the elections, especially in Darfur.

In IDPs and elections in Sudan, IDP Action details how the procedures for counting and registering voters have been particularly harmful to the rights of the more than 5 million internally displaced person (IDPs) in Sudan. "Across the country, but especially in Darfur, IDPs were under-counted and are under-represented on voter rolls. This denies hundreds of thousands the right to vote and reduces the chances of there being a government which is more accountable towards IDPs and which does more to protect their rights" said Jeremy Smith of IDP Action.

The report highlights systematic flaws in the census and voter registration processes which are a necessary precondition for elections to be held, as laid out in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005 by the Government of Sudan and the southern Sudanese People's Liberation Movement:

- under-counting and under-registration of IDPs from the south now living in the north. This means that some of the most marginalised citizens living in or around the capital Khartoum will not have the voice within Parliament that their large numbers would warrant;

- under-representation of IDPs in the south will have less impact on the results of the elections themselves in that these IDPs form less of a homogeneous group. However, tensions are high in the south and the absence of many groups from political power increases the fragility of the situation and the chances of violence;

- in Darfur, IDPs have been under-counted and there is strong evidence of falsification of census results and registration. The effects on constituency populations and the voters' register are such that no elections in Darfur can have any legitimacy. As one of several Darfuri IDPs quoted in IDPs and elections in Sudan puts it, 'the MPs who come now will not be our MPs - those who win will not represent me as I did not elect them'.

These flaws disenfranchise IDPs and increase the risk that the elections will trigger more violence and force more people to become displaced.

Nevertheless, IDP Action considers the holding of the elections in all areas apart from Darfur to be a least-worse option, given the value in democratising the present non-elected National Assembly and the importance of adhering as much as possible to the CPA timetable of a referendum on unity or secession of the south in 2011. Before that referendum goes ahead, it is vital that under-representation of southerners, especially IDPs, in both south and north Sudan is addressed so that the referendum can be carried out under conditions of greater legitimacy.

In Darfur itself, IDP Action urges the organizing of a separate election of IDP representatives to make up for their under-representation in the National Assembly elections. These IDP representatives can speak on behalf of the Darfuri displaced and bring IDPs' voice to a peace process.

'The disenfranchisement of IDPs pushes them further off the political radar in Sudan. Addressing the under-representation of southern IDPs before the 2011 referendum and organising a new process to involve IDPs in Darfur would make for a more legitimate political dispensation in Sudan. It would also reduce the risk of violence during and after the elections', concluded Jeremy Smith.

Background

Article I.8.1 of the Power-sharing Protocol of the CPA states that a population census should be completed by 2007 and that the representation of north and south at the national level should be based on this census. The census, which actually took place between 22 April and 7 May 2008, determines the boundaries of constituencies. This means that although those not counted in the census could still register as voters - and in the south the number of people registering for the elections is considerably higher than the number counted in the census - voter registration cannot correct the skew in the electoral process created by the flawed census.

IDP Action is a campaigning organization based in London and Amsterdam which advocates for African and donor governments, regional and international institutions to place the needs of IDPs at the centre of their policy decisions.

Contact: Jeremy Smith; +31 (0) 20 6233218; jeremy@idpaction.org