Sudan’s 2010 elections in doubt

Sudan may be unable to hold credible elections in coming months because the ruling party and opposition cannot agree on ground rules for the polls, the US State Department said.

At the end of a trip to Sudan by President Barack Obama’s special envoy Scott Gration, the State Department said it saw little movement on issues such as voter registration and border delineation between Khartoum and the semi-autonomous South endangering plans for national elections in April 2010 and a referendum on southern succession in 2011.
"Without immediate resolution of these disputes, we are concerned about the chances for conducting credible elections and referenda," it said in a statement.
"Unfortunately, the parties have not yet demonstrated the political will necessary to achieve resolution on these difficult and sensitive issues."
Gration’s trip to Sudan was his first since Washington announced in October it would keep economic sanctions on Sudan but would also offer Khartoum new incentives to end violence in Darfur and the South.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), former southern rebels who are now junior partners in the governing coalition under the terms of a 2005 peace deal, have accused the North of stalling on a democratic transformation and undermining plans for free elections.
The SPLM and other parties said last week they would delay a decision on whether to boycott April’s elections in part due to a week-long extension of the voter registration period.
The strains have raised fears the north-south civil war fuelled by issues including religion, ethnicity, oil and ideology between mostly Christian southern rebels and the Islamist Khartoum government could reignite.
Gration visited voter registration centres and urged people to sign up for the polls "as it is the only way for the Sudanese people to maintain their right to participate in the national elections in April 2010," the statement said.
He also visited Darfur, where the United Nations says more than 2 million people were driven from their homes and some 300 000 people died in a crisis that saw non-Arab militias take up arms against the central government. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10 000.
Gration’s meetings concentrated on the security situation along the Chad-Sudan border, with the State Department noting lawlessness and banditry were heightening tensions yet again.
"Addressing these ongoing security concerns is crucial for achieving a lasting peace in Darfur," the statement said.