Leading candidates in Sudan's presidential election, from left, Yasir Arman, Omar al-Beshir and Sadiq al-Mahdi (file photos)
Leading candidates in Sudan's presidential election, from left, Yasir Arman, Omar al-Beshir and Sadiq al-Mahdi (file photos)

The former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs says Sudan?s upcoming April general election remains an integral part of the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) .

Jendayi Frazer who is currently the director of the Center for International Politics and Innovation at the Carnegie Mellon University said there are many challenges for a credible free and fair vote.

?I think it is going to be a difficult process, but it is a process that one has to get through because it?s a step on the road to realizing the vision that is set out in the CPA. But that said, I think there are many challenges for a credible peaceful and fair election,? she said.

In a speech recently in Accra, Ghana, Jendayi Frazer called on African leaders to professionalize election management in their countries with institutions that would help reduce electoral conflicts by providing accountability, justice and transparency.

The former State Department official, together with Ghana?s Center for Democratic Development (CDD), organized a three-day conference this month on ?Preventing Electoral Violence and Instituting Good Governance?. The meeting attracted ministers and election administrators from countries including Ethiopia, Southern Sudan, Kenya, Ghana and Liberia.

Ambassador Frazer said the conference also focused on upcoming elections in Africa.

?We had one of the major case studies be Sudan along with Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia and Uganda,? she said. ?And we were able to really delve into what is necessary to create that fair playing ground and to have elections act as a preventive measure to conflicts. I think the Sudan is far from really being in an ideal situation today.?

The general election scheduled to be held April 11-13 is Sudan?s first in 24 years after decades of civil war between the north and the south.

Several opposition parties have accused President Bashir?s National Congress Party (NCP) of plotting to influence the National Electoral Commission to rig the vote - - a charge the NCP denies.

Ambassador Jendayi Frazer
Ambassador Jendayi Frazer

But Ambassador Frazer said the NCP is undermining the credible voting climate ahead of the election.

?The first problem in terms of a credible vote is the environment in which the vote is taking place.  The National Congress Party continuing to harass the opposition [by] using security legislation to basically prevent freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. That?s part of the problem. It?s the political constraining of space that is being undertaking by the National Congress Party that is problematic,? Frazer said.

She said there need to be sufficient security and safety in the Darfur region to permit the voting population there to fully participate in the election.

Ambassador Frazer said it is unfortunate the elections are being managed by national authorities and that the UN is not playing a stronger role. She said she hopes the international community will learn a lesson from the April polls.  That lesson, she said, is that the world body should play a larger role in ensuring a free and fair vote in next January?s referendum that will determine whether the south becomes independent.