Sudan: Al-Bashir threatens to disrupt southern Sudan’s independence

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Sudan’s President Mr. Omar al-Bashir has been accused of electoral fraud by the International Crisis Group, but Mr. Bashir has threatened to reject the referendum for southern Sudan’s independence, if he is disqualified or if the elections are postponed as a result of these allegations, reports have claimed.

According to the Brussels-based think-tank, Mr. al-Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) had a long-term plan to rig the elections by using manipulated results of a 2008 census to draw up electoral districts in its favor.

“The legal environment for free and fair elections does not exist. The international community should acknowledge that whoever wins will lack legitimacy,” ICG’s special adviser for Sudan, Mr. Fouad Hikmat, said in a statement from the Brussels-based think-tank.

The ICG also revealed that NCP had designated traditional leaders and bought tribal loyalties everywhere in Sudan, most notably in Darfur, as the first national vote in 24 years draws near.

Conversely, there have been reports of a possible poll boycott by opposition parties. The former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement will call for a delay of the elections.

However, Mr. al-Bashir has warned that any delay to April elections could affect next January’s referendum on secession for the south.

“If the SPLM refuses the elections, we will reject the (2011) referendum on southern independence,” Mr. al-Bashir told reporters on Monday.

The idea of secession is popular in the south but Mr. al-Bashir would deny the south its independence if the elections are called for allegations of fraud. Last week, Mr. Bashir threatened to expel foreign election monitors after they suggested the elections should be delayed.

Analysts say that President al-Bashir needs an electoral victory to give him credibility. “Winning big in Darfur is central to the NCP’s plan to capture enough votes in the north to ensure its continued national dominance,” the ICG statement read.

According to Human Rights Watch, violence between rival ethnic groups continues to claim hundreds of lives each year in the south, making it complex to ensure safety during the election. The conflict between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south has claimed the lives of some 1.5 million people.

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