As a Darfuri, I recognize the fact that this presidential and parliamentary election in Sudan is an important milestone for the implementation of the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005. Unfortunately, as people of Darfur, we are too familiar with the man controlling these elections; Omar al-Bashir is an indicted war criminal, a brutal dictator who seized power in a coup, and he has oppressed his own people for his entire ruling period of over two decades. There will never be a free and fair election in Sudan while Omar al-Bashir is in charge.
Since last year, there has been widespread opposition to how the population census was conducted. In Darfur, serious flaws with the electoral process led to organized boycotting by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and other war-affected communities. Darfuris who have fled to other parts of Sudan have also been excluded from the count -- the Geneva-based Darfur Relief and Documentation Center found that over 95% of Darfuri IDPs in certain parts of Sudan were intentionally excluded from the Sudanese census. Darfuri students have been consistently harassed, threatened, and killed in Khartoum by the ruling government.
The people of Darfur -- who make up approximately 20% of Sudan's population -- have been excluded from these elections entirely. Instead al-Bashir is telling the international media that his party, the National Congress Party, has the full support of the population in Darfur. The suggestion that the people of Darfur support Bashir after he led a campaign designed for Darfur's destruction is beyond offensive. Meanwhile, people in other parts of Sudan, members of the international community, and UN officials are prepared to leave the Darfuri constituency behind in order to get these elections over with. And why not? UN officials have stated that "the war in Darfur is over," and they are clearly ready to wash their hands of "the Darfur problem." These statements are divorced from the reality on the ground. Last month, an attack on Jebel Marra in Western Darfur took as many as 400 lives, displaced 100,000 citizens, and left the population with no access to humanitarian or peacekeeping assistance.
Last week, Yasir Arman, the leader of the South's main political party (the Sudan People's Liberation Movement), pulled out of the election, concluding that it had been rigged. Most of the other opposition parties have joined him in boycotting Bashir's manipulated election.
This is a critical time for our people in Sudan, and it's time for the international community to honor the promises they have made. The U.S. Government can choose to stand with the people of Sudan or to remain silent and move forward, legitimizing the rule of this genocidal dictator. History will judge us for our actions, and it is up to the American people to tell their leaders what they expect from them -- a genuine commitment to democracy and human rights.
People of faith have been active since the beginning of the crisis for the rights of the people of Darfur. Emphasizing morality, mutual responsibility, and social justice, the faith community has refused to be silent and has insisted on truth and action. When they speak, the world listens. Now more than ever before, the people of Sudan need your voices. We are asking you to speak with one united voice to say that these elections will not be free and fair, that their result will not take into account the desires of the Sudanese people, and that their winning candidate has paid for his victory in blood. Please pray for the people of Darfur, and encourage your Congressional leaders to act now.
Niemat Ahmadi is a native of North Darfur and is the Darfuri Liaison Officer at the Save Darfur Coalition.