April 5, 2010 (WASHINGTON) – Save Darfur Coalition, a group of activists in the United States of America, predicts that the elections in Sudan will not be free and fair and urges the US Government to reject the outcome as illegitimate.
President Omer Al Bashir, running mostly unopposed, is expected to win. The polling is set to take place April 11 to 13.
The U.S.-based Save Darfur Coalition is an alliance of more than 190 faith-based, advocacy and human rights organizations. The headquarters staff, based in the downtown Washington, D.C., engage in lobbying, advocacy, media outreach and education.
Robert Lawrence, director of policy for the Save Darfur Coalition, told Voice of America “We believe the election is not going to be free and fair, and it’s not even going to be credible, and the last thing we want is for the results to legitimize the dictatorial rule of President Al-Bashir who is the overwhelming favorite obviously to win re-election.”
Lawrence pointed to the boycott by the opposition parties as an indication that the election lacks legitimacy.
However, in recent days President Obama’s special envoy, Scott Gration, has emerged as a major proponent of the electoral process. Gration worked actively to dissuade opposition parties from boycotting the poll, and he said after meeting the National Elections Commission, “They have given me confidence that the elections will start on time and they would be as free and as fair as possible.”
“These people have gone to great lengths to ensure that the people of Sudan will have access to polling places and that the procedures and processes will ensure transparency. This has been a difficult challenge but I believe they have stepped up and met the challenge,” Gration was also quoted as saying.
Save Darfur on April 1 had issued a statement urging the United States government “not to legitimize Sudan’s presidential election.” In that message the Acting President of Save Darfur Mark Lotwis said “President Obama must lead the international community in ensuring that the results of this rigged process are not used to endorse President Bashir’s dictatorial rule.”
The wide gulf between Gration’s position and Save Darfur’s is another sign of Save Darfur’s very limited influence in Washington. The group continues to attack the ruling Sudanese party but hesitates to criticize the Obama Administration, which has invested heavily — US $100 million — in Sudan’s elections preparations.
Unlike Gration, Lawrence publicly cited some sources that have focused on irregularities in the elections process. “The Carter Center for example, the monitoring organization on the ground has already issued several reports with grave concern over the conduct of the pre-election period in terms media repression, breaking rallies, and the International Crisis Group put out a report indicating the extent to which Darfur in particular has been disenfranchised,” Lawrence said to Voice of America.
The Carter Center observation mission was threatened with expulsion last month after reporting its concerns.
Today a group of Sudanese activists, the Sudanese Initiative for Democratic Transformation, issued a statement that concluded “US support for maintaining the status quo is creating fear and division, another major factor in hindering Sudan overcoming its crisis… The Sudanese people have said NO to these elections at this time. Why is the US saying YES?”