The counting of votes has just started in Sudan in elections that are so crucial to the future of the country. We can here provide a couple of 'on the ground' updates on the Sudanese elections from local peacebuilders, one from Juba, one from Jonglei:
As the voting kicked off on the 11th of April many Sudanese voters turned up to cast their votes for the first time in the history of southern Sudan. However many of the polling stations did not open in time, some opening at 10am, others at midday, and still others not at all that day. Reasons given were missing ballot papers or missing voter registration books.
The delays led to frustrations as many voters were left waiting. Just finding your name in the huge lists outside polling station was challenge enough. It took me 3 hours and 6 different polling stations before I could find mine.
Plain clothed security personnel patrolled the polling stations, and on Tuesday in South Kator they arrested 19 of the domestic observers. We approached the head of security personnel and the observers were released – but no reason was given for their arrest.
Counting begins tomorrow and I’ll keep you up to date with progress.
Taban Kiston Santo, Collaborative for Peace in Sudan, Juba, April 15 2010
Election Fever in Jonglei
In the thick of Jonglei many people turned out for the elections, many excited and yet at the same time sad and angry.
The excitement was caused by the furore around the elections, it is a first for many of us, and many of us since birth have never experienced such an exercise. There was also a lot of sadness and anger as many others could not get their names on the registers, and many people were left to walk many miles from centre to centre in search of their names. Those who found their names were made to stand in long queues, even women who had had no choice but to bring their babies with them. This so far is the most complex election exercise I have ever encountered within the region with individuals having to vote multiple times, and even with an extension, it was not enough to ease the burden.
There was and still is a very heavy police presence, and there are also some plaincloth security agents within the centres. We were met with brute force twice when my Coordinator Mr. Koang tried to take pictures of the exercise. Anyone who had a camera was supposed to have been given an ID by the NEC. It has been very frustrating especially to those who were meant to be monitoring and reporting on the elections since no one with a camera was allowed to get close enough to the voting centres. Even phones were being searched for cameras.
Yet even with the volatile state of Jonglei, the exercise went ahead and exceeded our expectations.
I am now on my way from Ayod County heading towards Juba; hoping that the announcements of the winners and victors of this exercise will not plunge us into deeper and murkier waters.
All that is left now is to wait and get the final and official confirmation, the rest will be left for us to judge and any comment stemming from the same will only serve to strengthen the resolve of the people towards a more democratic space and possibly a democratic government and leadership.