For dis­placed, Su­dan elec­tions of­fer lit­tle hope

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - BY AB­DELMONEIM ABU IDRIS ALI

Su­dan’s elec­tions are of lit­tle con­cern to the lat­est ar­rivals at Dar­fur’s Zamzam camp, forced to flee their homes by fight­ing this year be­tween rebels and Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir’s forces.

In­dicted by the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court over al­leged war crimes in the west­ern re­gion, Bashir is widely ex­pected to ex­tend his rule in polls start­ing on Mon­day.

But Zamzam’s new­est res­i­dents, over­whelmed by their tough living con­di­tions, have paid lit­tle heed to cam­paign­ing.

The white-bearded sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian aban­doned his home and live­stock and fled to Zamzam in Jan­uary when the gov­ern­ment’s lat­est of­fen­sive came to his vil­lage in North Dar­fur.

Women in brightly colored robes milled around be­hind him at the NGO-run well.

Nearby, in a small clinic, a health worker said they treat some 120 peo­ple daily for a va­ri­ety of ill­nesses.

Most peo­ple there ar­rived af­ter Jan­uary, although Zamzam, 12 kilo­me­ters (seven miles) from North Dar­fur state cap­i­tal El Fasher, was built for some of those first dis­placed in the con­flict.

Its densely packed mud huts house some 165,000 peo­ple, and it has sprouted a new wing for those flee­ing the gov­ern­ment of­fen­sive dubbed “De­ci­sive Sum­mer 2.”

Some new homes are fash­ioned from dried grass, but the only shel­ter many peo­ple have are the clothes they fled with, stretched over fallen branches.

Tens of thou­sands have fled the lat­est un­rest, the United Na­tions said last month, and a hu­man­i­tar­ian worker at Zamzam told AFP as many as 1,000 fam­i­lies may have ar­rived there.

Cy­cle of Con­flict

They are the lat­est vic­tims of the cy­cle of con­flict that has en­gulfed the west­ern re­gion for 12 years, and for them the elec­tions of­fer lit­tle chance of peace in the near fu­ture.

Eth­nic in­sur­gents re­belled against Khar­toum’s Arab-dom­i­nated regime in 2003, com­plain­ing of marginal­iza­tion.

The con­flict has left 300,000 peo­ple dead and dis­placed 2.5 mil­lion, the U.N. says, although the Su­danese gov­ern­ment puts the toll at 10,000.

It also saw Bashir in­dicted by the ICC for al­leged war crimes, crimes against hu­man­ity and geno­cide.

Fight­ing has raged this year, but the gov­ern­ment has vowed that vot­ing will go ahead in all but one of Dar­fur’s elec­toral dis­tricts.

There will also be no vot­ing in seven dis­tricts in South Kord­o­fan, where the Su­dan Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army-North has bat­tled the gov­ern­ment since 2011.

With most op­po­si­tion par­ties boy­cotting the polls and Bashir stand­ing against 15 lit­tle-known can­di­dates, the 71-year-old is widely ex­pected to ex­tend his 25-year rule.

Rebels from the Jus­tice and Equal­ity Move­ment have also vowed to stop the vote.

JEM “will spare no ef­fort to im- pede this elec­toral farce” in Dar­fur, its spokesman Jib­ril Bi­lal told AFP.

Rebels in South Kord­o­fan and Blue Nile have said they will do the same.

Bashir has said his next elec­toral term will be one of na­tion­wide sta­bil­ity, promis­ing to spur eco­nomic devel­op­ment in ar­eas such as Dar­fur.

He has also touted a na­tional dia­logue he an­nounced last Jan­uary as a way of re­solv­ing Su­dan’s con­flicts.

The talks have yet to take place, but Bashir says they will hap­pen af­ter vot­ing.

But the tough hu­man­i­tar­ian con­di­tions in Zamzam camp mean there is lit­tle in­ter­est in pol­i­tics.

Around the sprawl­ing, dust­whipped set­tle­ment, the num­ber of elec­tion posters taped to huts can be counted on the fin­gers of one hand.

At the well, Zakaria Abakir Ishag says he be­lieves the gov­ern­ment’s prom­ises are the best chance for progress.

Although he ad­mits he is not very in­ter­ested in pol­i­tics, he said that he backs Bashir.

Khar­toum has also called on the U.N.-AU mission in Dar­fur, which pro­vides se­cu­rity at camps like Zamzam, to pre­pare to leave.

UNAMID de­ployed in 2007 and has 15,000 po­lice and mil­i­tary peace­keep­ers across the re­gion.

But its at­tempts to in­ves­ti­gate a re­ported mass rape last Novem­ber an­gered Khar­toum.

Talks have be­gun on the mission’s with­drawal, with Bashir’s gov­ern­ment say­ing it can pro­tect civil­ians and se­cure hu­man­i­tar­ian aid.

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