The three members of the Sudan Troika including the United States, United Kingdom and Norway expressed regret over what they described as failure by the Khartoum government “to create a free, fair, and conducive elections environment”.
Last week, Sudan conducted its first general elections after the secession of the south that saw a very low voter turnout amid boycott by major opposition parties and what observers labeled as widespread apathy among eligible voters.
The National Elections Commission (NEC) extended the vote nationwide by an extra day in a bid to boost the turnout.
In a statement released today the Troika said that “restrictions on political rights and freedoms, counter to the rights enshrined in the Sudanese Constitution, the lack of a credible national dialogue and the continuation of armed conflict in Sudan’s peripheries are among the reasons for the reported low participation and very low voter turnout”.
“The outcome of these elections cannot be considered a credible expression of the will of the Sudanese people”.
Last week, it was revealed that a report drafted by an African Union (AU) panel tasked with evaluating the pre-elections environment in Sudan concluded that it would not be possible to hold credible polls in the East African nation, recommending that the pan-African body not send a monitoring mission.
“The overall political environment is restrictive, which impacted on political participation by other stakeholders, including opposition parties, civil society and the media. Media houses and civil society organisations were barred from discussing issues relating to the conflict in the country and certain political and social topics,” the pre-election assessment mission said in its report submitted to the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) last month.
“Those who ignored this ruling either have their licenses withdrawn or arrested and detained by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). Thus, freedom of expression, association and assembly were generally not respected,” the report adds.
It concluded that that “the necessary conditions and environment for the holding of transparent, competitive, free and fair elections as agreed in the AU principles governing democratic elections have not been satisfied”.
It called for the polls to be postponed in favor of furthering the national dialogue process initiated by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir last year on the basis that this would “allow more time for the creation of an enabling environment for credible, transparent and competitive elections”.
The committee recommended that the AU not send an observation mission, saying that doing so “under this circumstance would not be viable and effective and would not contribute to democracy building”.
But the AUSPSC brushed aside the findings and recommendations in the report and decided to send an observation mission headed by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.
Obasanjo vouched for the credibility of the elections but stated that the “elections would have been enhanced” if the human rights situation had been improved.
In a subtle criticism of attacks leveled by rebel groups during the elections in conflict zones, the Troika said it condemns “acts of violence” and stressed that it supports “those Sudanese who wish to peacefully advance a comprehensive and legitimate political process of dialogue toward an end to the conflict, meaningful governance reform and long-term stability”.