The AACC Observe the Elections in Sudan

The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) at the invitation of Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) observed the recently concluded elections in Sudan. The Election Observation Mission comprised eight observers drawn from AACC constituencies in Burundi, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. The Observation Team was led by Canon Joseph Oneka from Uganda Joint Christian Council. This preliminary report is intended to provide an overview of the findings of the AACC Election Observation Mission to Sudan. It sets out the objectives of the observation mission, key findings and recommendations for reflection by various stakeholders.

Statement on Sudan Elections 2010

April 27, 2010

The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) at the invitation of Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) observed the recently concluded elections in Sudan. The Election Observation Mission comprised eight observers drawn from AACC constituencies in Burundi, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. The Observation Team was led by Canon Joseph Oneka from Uganda Joint Christian Council. This preliminary report is intended to provide an overview of the findings of the AACC Election Observation Mission to Sudan. It sets out the objectives of the observation mission, key findings and recommendations for reflection by various stakeholders.

Objectives of the Mission

AACC Observation Mission had three objectives:-

·  To assess measures that were put in place by the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese electoral authorities to ensure that the elections would be conducted freely and fairly in conformity with internationally agreed standards and norms and the Interim Constitution and the National Elections Act.

·  To assess the conduct of the polls with a view to establishing the extent to which pre-polling and polling arrangements would enhance or hinder the attainment of free and fair elections.

·  To use information collected in the course of the Mission to formulate broad recommendations to guide AACC in developing short-term, medium-term and long-term policies to support her constituents in addressing the issues of good governance in a way that empowers them to participate more actively in all aspects of the electoral process in their respective countries.

In pursing the above objectives, AACC observers were guided by international standards and norms, the Interim Constitution of the Republic of Sudan 2005 and the National Elections Act 2008. In particular, our observers were guided by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (2002).

Interim Constitution

The basic laws governing the elections are the Interim Constitution of Sudan 2005 and the National Elections Act 2008. The Interim Constitution provides for the appointment of an independent, competent and non-partisan National Elections Commission consisting of a Chairperson, a Deputy Chairperson and seven other members who serve for a term of six years which may be renewed only once. It also provides for the establishment by NEC of High Committees at the Southern Sudan Government and States levels and a Secretariat General headed by the Secretary General.

National Elections Act

The National Elections Act provides for the functions of the National Elections Commission. These include organizing and conducting elections for the President of the Republic, the President of the Government of Southern Sudan, States Governors, the National Assembly, the South Sudan Legislative Assembly and the States Assembly. The National Elections Act mandates the National Elections Commission to make regulations for implementing the Act. Pursuant to the powers given to it under the Act the Commission enacted The General Elections Rules 2009 and The Rules for Elections Observation and Code of Conduct of Observers 2009.

General Elections Rules

The General Elections Rules provide guidelines on various aspects of election administration such as the procedures for nomination of a candidate, challenging the nomination of a candidate, mode of declaration of assets and liabilities of a candidate, certificate of approval of a candidate for nomination, the mode of challenging the nomination of a candidate, sample forms, sample certificates.

The Rules for Election Observation and Code of Conduct for Observers

These give observers several functions including observing the polling, sorting and counting of votes and ensure the impartiality and fairness of the polling, sorting and counting procedures. The observers were also required to ensure the impartiality of the persons in charge of the polling, sorting and counting of votes and their commitment to the provisions of the Act. Other rights conferred on the observers include visiting the geographical constituencies and polling, sorting and counting centres; attending all stages of polling, counting and sorting especially the opening and closing of the ballot boxes, and ensuring freeness and fairness and writing reports in accordance with the provisions of the rules.

Apart from reviewing the electoral laws to familiarize themselves with the rules, AACC Election Observation Team held discussions with a cross-section of people including church leaders to get their perspectives on the elections. The team also visited a total of 61 polling centres in different constituencies in Khartoum and Juba which, by their cosmopolitan nature, are a mirror of the diversity of the people of Sudan.

Positive Aspects of the Election

AACC Observers noted that there were many aspects of the elections that deserve commendation. These were: -

·  High voter turn-out.

Many people both young and old were seen lining and waiting patiently for long hours to exercise their right to vote. This was an indication that the people of Sudan took these elections very seriously.

·  The National Elections Commission  Website

NEC made a sustained effort to prepare the country for the elections. The National Elections Commission had a website on which it posted election-related documents, including list of polling centres, and election news. This was very helpful.

·  Voters List

The voters list was displayed at all the polling centres.

·  Election officials

Election officials at all the polling stations were welcoming and courteous. They endeavoured to respond to all questions that were put to them by the AACC election observers.

·  Domestic Observers

Domestic election observers were stationed in many polling centres.

·  Peaceful Elections

Voting in the areas visited by AACC election observers was conducted in an atmosphere that was generally calm and peaceful.

·  Security

All polling centres were provided with armed security

Challenges

AACC also acknowledges that the elections were also beset with numerous challenges. These are: -

Boycott by Political Parties

·  Sudanese political parties failed to develop consensus on various contentious issues. This led to a total or partial boycott of the elections by some of the political parties. Some of the candidates and political parties pulled out at the eleventh hour; hence their names remained on the ballot papers. This caused confusion.

Vote Counting

·  It was noted that presiding officials did not apply similar rules for declaring spoilt or invalid votes and this led to many invalid votes being admitted as valid.  Polling officials were inadequately trained. In certain cases agents and polling officials agreed to admit spoilt and invalid votes.

Illiteracy

·  High level of illiteracy was a major challenge to many Sudanese who found it extremely difficult to vote.

Campaigns

·  Although campaigns officially ended on 16 April 2010, some political parties, including the ruling party, set up tents within the vicinity of polling centres which served as their base for covert campaign. Mini-buses, some of which were adorned with portraits of the candidates and party flags were parked within the vicinity of some of the polling centres and were also seen ferrying voters to the polling centres.

Identification Documents

·  Many voters turned up at the polling centres without identification documents. They were referred to the Popular Committees who issued them with identification documents. The residence certificates were issued without corresponding photographs of the bearers. In the circumstance, the possibility of abusing the discretion of issuing residence certificates was quite wide.

Multiple Elections

·  Multiple elections where a voter in the North was required to vote for 8 elective positions while in the South had to vote for 12 elective positions coupled with the high level of illiteracy made it very difficult to voters. 

Delivery of strategic/and non strategic materials.

The vastness of the country and the rudimentary state of infrastructures, especially in the rural areas, made it extremely difficult for the National Elections Commission to reach every polling centre with polling materials at the right time.  This contributed to the late opening of polling stations. 

Civic and Voter Education

·  Civic and Voter Education was also inadequate and observers noted that citizens were overwhelmed by the process whereby voters marked against all names on the ballot or simply cast un marked ballots.

Voters Lists

·        In some centres, the observers noted that incorrect voters list were delivered thereby making it difficult for voters to locate their names. In Juba, voters' names appeared in Arabic making it impossible for voters to locate their names, as they neither speak nor read Arabic.

Location of Voting Centres 

·        Some voting centres were located in police stations in Juba thereby creating an intimidating environment for the citizens to vote.

Role of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)

AACC acknowledges the important role played by civil society organizations in the electoral process. Various civil society organizations including faith-based communities such as Sudanese Network for Democratic Election (SuNDE), the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), Sudan Organization for Development and Research (SORD) and many others actively observed the elections. Some civil society organizations also carried out voter education.

Media

AACC also wishes to acknowledge the important role which the media played in the electoral process. Various newspapers churned out volumes of information on the electoral process both before and during the period of polling, sorting and counting of votes. The media also kept the public informed of the activities of the National Elections Commission at the tallying centre in Khartoum. For example, Sudan Television made a live coverage of the first announcement by the National Elections Commission of candidates' for legislative assemblies that were elected by default for lack of competitors. English mass circulation newspapers, namely the Sudan Vision, Khartoum Monitor, Juba Post, The Democrat, and The Citizen provided continuous coverage of the elections, highlighting both positive and negative developments. They also carried articles giving divergent viewpoints. We note from the stories and articles from various newspapers that there were serious problems in certain parts of the country during the election period. These problems ranged from arrest of candidates agents and polling officials in Unity State and Eastern Equatoria to burning of ballot boxes in Western Equatoria. The impact of these incidents on the elections in the affected areas cannot be under-estimated.      

Conclusion

In conclusion, AACC wishes to make the following observations, appeals and commitments:

§  We remind all political parties and all candidates that in every election, there are winners and losers in the polls, but the country as a whole is always the winner in elections that are conducted freely and fairly.

§  We congratulate all those who have won the elections fairly and urge all those who believe that they lost through unfair means to seek recourse in courts of law.

§  We appeal to newly elected leaders to reach out to their political opponents with a view to holding dialogue on how political parties and leaders of various social formations can work together to build trust and consensus on the participation of all Sudanese in nurturing and strengthening the culture of democratic governance.

§        We appeal to the international community to continue to support the people of Sudan, through the established national institutions, to enable them implement the outstanding aspects of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

§        We reiterate our commitment to work with the people of Sudan, in close collaboration with Sudan Council of Churches, to nurture the culture of democratic governance which is beginning to take root in the country.

AACC wishes to congratulate the people of Sudan upon holding the election in accordance with the provisions of the CPA and especially for maintaining peace. AACC also commends the National Elections Commission for having made sustained efforts to prepare the people of Sudan to exercise their right to vote.

Director
Peace, Healing and Reconciliation