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Tarnished elections prepare way for referendum on independence of south.
“This wasn’t an election,” said John Prendergast, co-founder of the anti-genocide group Enough Project. “It was an expensive beauty pageant in which the other contestants dropped out because the fix was in from the beginning.”
But even as vocal a critic as Prendergast was pragmatic in looking at the bigger picture. “The key now is for governments around the world to stand up against a repeat of this electoral larceny in the referendum process for southern Sudan,” he said.
A secessionist south taking with it control over the vast oil revenues that have helped cement al-Bashir’s support in Khartoum and other parts of the north, is not the only threat to his renewed rule.
Last year the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir accusing him of ordering attacks by "janjaweed" militias in Darfur that raped, tortured and murdered civilians and forced people from their homes.
According to the United Nations, 300,000 have died as a result of the fighting and 2.7 million have been forced into temporary dust-blown camps since 2003. Al-Bashir says the U.N. figures are hugely exaggerated and strenuously denies the charges, but he refuses to face a trial.
The arrest warrant will not go away but al-Bashir had hoped that a resounding victory in a legitimate election would enable him to continue to defy the ICC and claim wide-ranging support from the Sudanese people. The combination of boycotts, irregularities and malpractice mean that wish will be unfulfilled.
“Political oppression and human rights violations undermined the freedom and fairness of the vote all over Sudan,” said Georgette Gagon, Africa director of Human Rights Watch. “Regardless of the outcome, al-Bashir belongs in The Hague responding to the serious charges against him, for which victims have still seen no accountability.”
Soon after the announcement of results, al-Bashir, who seized power in a bloodless 1989 coup and has ruled Sudan with an iron fist ever since, struck an unusually conciliatory tone. On state-run television he declared that he would work to bring peace to Darfur and would ensure next year’s southern referendum went ahead as planned.
But the specter of this month’s shambolic and fraudulent election will hang over that vote, too, causing many, especially in the south, to take the new president’s promises with more than a pinch of salt.