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U.S. Group Calls on International Community not to Legitimize Sudan Elections

Robert Lawrence of Save Darfur Coalition says decision by some opposition parties to boycott elections underscores lack of legitimacy

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  • Robert Lawrence of Save Darfur Coalition spoke with Butty

James Butty

The U.S.-based Save Darfur Coalition – an alliance of more than 190 faith-based, advocacy and human rights organizations – said the decision by some opposition parties to boycott this month’s election in Sudan underscores the lack of legitimacy in the process.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) of south Sudan and several other opposition parties have indicated they might not take part in a flawed process that would lead to the re-election of President Omar al-Bashir.

Robert Lawrence, director of policy for the Save Darfur Coalition, said his group is urging the United States and the international community not to legitimize Sudan’s presidential election.

“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,” he said.

Lawrence said the Save Darfur Coalition is also concerned the elections might make President al-Bashir stronger vis-à-vis the International Criminal Court indictments that the Sudanese leader faces.

U.S. envoy to Sudan Scott Gration was quoted over the weekend as saying that he was confident the April 11 election in Sudan would be as “free and fair as possible”.

Lawrence said Gration was perhaps trying to encourage Sudan opposition parties who are trying to boycott the elections to participate.

“I think the general and U.S. policy at large see the election as a means to get to the referendum on independence for south Sudan which is scheduled the beginning of next year. I think General Gration is trying to encourage the parties who are currently talking about boycotting the election to participate in order not to derail the process that is supposed to lead to the referendum,” Lawrence said.

He said Save Darfur Coalition is not trying to say whether the elections should be postponed or not. That, he said should be left to the Sudan opposition parties

But Lawrence said the group is simply trying to highlight the numerous voices that indicate that these elections are not going to be free and fair.

“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.

A number of opposition parties, including the Umma party, last week asked the government to implement a number of reforms before they would agree to take part in the elections.

Lawrence said he does not think the opposition can get President Bashir to undo 20 years of repression in four weeks and allow for free and fair elections.

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