The head of mission of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Sudan, says the authorities and several other non-governmental organizations made considerable efforts to include Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) in the upcoming nationwide poll.
Jill Helke said for many Sudanese the vote scheduled to be held between April 11th and 13th will be the first time they will participate in a democratic election.
She said the ongoing violence in Southern Sudan does not seem to generate international media attention.
“In Southern Sudan, there is ongoing displacement because of inter-tribal violence which is often not paid much attention to in the outside world particularly as Darfur tends to eclipse the South in the Western press. In 2009, there were more than 390,000 people displaced and of those, 240, 000 remain displaced by the end of the year,” she said.
The IOM is a United Nations-affiliated intergovernmental agency that works on managing migration and assisting migrants in need, including refugees and the internally displaced, in over 120 countries worldwide.
In 2006, Khartoum expelled the IOM from Southern Darfur after accusing it of inciting the 2.5 million IDP’s in camps not to return home - - a charge IOM denies.
Helke said the IOM will continue to help IDP’s in Sudan.
“In the South, we are providing non-food items to the newly displaced and the vulnerable populations. We are doing population tracking and village assessment programs to see where people are moving to and where the facilities of villages are being put under pressure by such population movements… We also work ….particularly with women’s groups to try and ensure that people have sustainable livelihoods…so that they can start living normal lives and become self sufficient,” Helke said.
The IOM has reportedly been working closely with the Sudanese government to dispatch IDP’s to return to their homes after the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended the over two decades of war between the North and the South.
Helke said several organizations are playing a pivotal role by educating displaced Sudanese ahead of the presidential election.
“There was an outreach through civil society organizations to educate the population in how to register and what it meant to register. And then similarly since the registration was completed, there have been a number of measures by a number of different actors to reach out to teach the people, how then to go and vote,” Helke said.