22nd Jan 2021

European election observers withdraw from Darfur

The European Union has withdrawn its election observers from Sudan's Dafur region over safety concerns ahead of Sunday's (11 April) presidential elections.

"I have decided to go back with all the team of six observers that were still in Darfur," EU head of mission Veronique De Keyser told reporters in Darfur's capital el-Fasher.

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  • Voter registration sign in Kapoetea, Sudan, for the first multi-party general elections since 1986 (Photo: Carter Center/ B. Krause)

"If I feel that security conditions are not guaranteed - not just for the observers but for the people of Darfur - and if I am not certain these elections will allow for credible monitoring, I will not observe them."

The EU mission chief earlier expressed dismay after Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, threatened to expel international observers pushing for a delay in the poll, saying he would "cut off their fingers and put them under our shoes and expel them."

"You don't usually treat international observers you have invited like that ...It doesn't reflect the traditional hospitality of the Arab world," Ms De Keyser said, according to the BBC.

The election is Sudan's first in 24 years. The vote forms part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the north and south after years of civil war.

Following an invitation from the government of Sudan, the EU election mission lead by the Belgian socialist MEP Veronique De Keyser began operations last month.

The mission includes a total of 130 observers from 22 different EU countries, as well as Norway, Switzerland and Canada, deployed in all of the 25 states of Sudan.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur, had hoped to legitimise his rule with a victory in the elections that are Sudan's first multi-party vote since 1986.

But last week the leading opposition candidate, Yasir Arman dropped out of the presidential race saying it was "impossible" to hold an election in the conflict-racked region of Darfur and that the whole electoral process had been "rigged."

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) - which joined the unity government in 2005 as part of a peace deal ending the civil war - has also pulled out of the race in 13 of the 15 northern states.

While the EU mission is leaving the Dafur region, the Sudanese president is still hopefull of welcoming former US president Jimmy Carter in Khartoum where he will be leading the Carter Centre's poll observer team to Dafur.

Sudan is Africa's biggest country with approximately 39 million people. It is also one of the world's poorest countries, ranking 147 out of 177 listed on the 2008 Human Development Index.

For more than two decades Sudan was embroiled in a devastating civil war between the North and South that caused some 2 million casualties and left 4 million people displaced.


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