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Rights Activists Describe Sudanese Elections as Rigged, say U.S. Not Tough Enough

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Joe DeCapua

Human rights activists sharply criticized the Obama administration’s efforts in Sudan Wednesday and described the ongoing Sudanese elections as rigged and a sham.

John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project at the Center for American Progress, says, “As bad as they are, the elections are a real diversion from the issues that are going to determine whether Sudan goes back to full-scale national war or not.”

He describes U.S. diplomatic efforts in Sudan leading up to the elections as “amateur hour,” saying the Obama administration has failed to address “multiple crises.”

Get tough

“By not responding forcefully or robustly,” he says, “to the multiple violations of the electoral process and the other things that are happening in Sudan, the U.S. sends a very important signal that emboldens the (ruling) National Congress Party in Khartoum and it demoralizes the Sudanese people.”

Prendergast outlines what he sees as threats to peace in Sudan.

“We’re not responding to the resuscitation of the (Ugandan) Lord’s Resistance Army (rebels).  We’re not responding to this major offensive in Darfur in Jebal Marra over the last couple of months that led to so many people being killed and displaced,” he says.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has become a regional threat, launching raids on towns and villages in the DRC, southern Sudan and elsewhere.

The U.S. Congress is considering the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda recovery Act.  The bill aims to develop “a regional strategy to support multilateral efforts to successfully protect civilians and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA.”

He says the U.S. has also failed to respond to unfulfilled “key provisions” of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between north and south Sudan.  This includes the north-south border demarcation.

“You combine that with a seriously flawed if not a stolen election, and it becomes baffling why the Obama administration allows General (Scott) Gration, its special envoy, to continue make public statements that literally defy the facts on the ground on a very fundamental level,” he says.

Recently, Gration told the media the Sudanese elections “would be as free and fair as possible.”  He’s expected to return from Sudan to the United States soon to present his report on the elections.

More than just irregularities

Joining Prendergast was American actress Mia Farrow, a former U.N. goodwill ambassador to Sudan.

“The flaws in this widely boycotted election transcend mere irregularities or technical glitches.  We have known there were many problems with the election process for a long time.  This was apparent last June and there were reports in the press.  But these problems were not addressed,” she says.

Farrow voting problems include intimidation, vote rigging, bribing of tribal leaders and manipulation of the census.

“Most of the refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Darfur were unable or unwilling to be counted at all,” she says.

The activist describes Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir as a “thug.”  The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Bashir, accusing him of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.  Nevertheless, he’s expected to win another term in office.

“Bashir’s so-called win in the election will not represent progress.  But will serve to consolidate the power of the Sudanese government.  It will give them the ability to alter the constitution and to change the conditions of the CPA, the north-south agreement,” she says.

The CPA was signed in 2005, ending many years of civil war.

“We watch and have watched a series of American diplomats and envoys blow in and out of Khartoum believing they can end the Khartoum campaign of destruction.  But it’s delusionary,” she says.

Right groups plan to hold more news conferences Thursday and Friday in response to the Sudanese elections.  Voting ends Thursday, following a two-day extension.  

A U.S. State Department statement on Sudan, says, “Sudan is at an important crossroads that can either lead to steady improvements in the lives of the Sudanese people or degenerate into even more violent conflict and state failure.  Now is the time for the United States to act with a sense of urgency and purpose to protect civilians and work toward a comprehensive peace.  The consequences are stark.”

It says lessons from the past indicate, “The United States cannot succeed in achieving our policy goals by focusing exclusively on Darfur or CPA implementation -- both must be addressed seriously and simultaneously, while also working to resolve and prevent conflict throughout Sudan.”

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