Kufuor hails Sudanese polls as step in democratization

Khartoum- Sudan (PANA) -- Former Ghanaian President John Kufuor has hailed Sudanese elections as “a step forward in democratization,” saying the pols had raised the bar for African countries scheduled to hold elections later in the year.
In exclusive interview with PANA, Kufuor, who is leading a team of 76 African Union (AU) observers, said despite logistical and technical challenges, Sudan's peaceful and orderly conduct of the polls had elevated the standing of the government and its people above the usually chaotic and violent African polls.
“Despite the serious challenges so far, the people of Sudan have exhibited a level of maturity and tolerance that is rare on a continent where election are synonymous with violence and electoral fraud,” said Kufuor who, together with South African President Thabo Mbeki,, and former Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa, are respected for stepping down after the expiration of their tenures.
Kufuor was the first African leader to respond when Kenya plunged into a political crisis following contested presidential poll outcome of 2007.
He has been hailed as an icon of African democratic transition by US President Barrack Obama, who last year visited Ghana in symbolic acknowledgement of entrenchment of democracy and competitive politics.
“Sudan has set the benchmark higher for democracy in Africa a little higher for countries that will be holding elections later in the year.
It has managed to come this far because of the massive attention from observers from all over the world.
The awareness of the electorate contributed to the orderliness.
I have a feeling this is going to be the trend everywhere [in Africa],” he said.
Later this year, Rwanda and Burundi will hold general elections before July and August, while in Tanzania and Ethiopia, the polls are scheduled for October.
Burkina Faso is expected to elect a new parliament and president in October.
“We cannot compare these countries to Sudan because geographically and historically they are so diverse.
Yet infrastructurally, the challenges they face are nothing compared to what Sudan has gone through.
Given that this is the first time Sudan is holding an election in 24 years, it is incumbent upon other African nations that have a history of electing their leaders periodically to up their game,” said Kufuor.
As he spoke, other international observers hailed the poll as a major success given events preceding it.
The US government, Britain and the European Union (EU) gave the poll thumbs up, despite the hiccups and challenges that saw some 800,000 ballot papers being reprinted and the polling period extended by two days from Tuesday to Thursday.
The government went a step further by declaring the last day of polling a national holiday, which observers hailed as enhancing participation.
According to the National Election Commission (NEC), voter turnout has been massive and was expected to rise further as voter rush to beat the 6 o’clock deadline set by the electoral body.
The United States Embassy said that despite earlier misgivings about the credibility of the poll outcome, there were indications that the results would be accepted by the parties that took part.
The EU, one of the observer missions with a heavy presence in Sudan, endorsed the poll as free and fair, despite raising questions about whether the same scenario would have prevailed obtained had the political parties not pulled out.
“The complexity of the process is huge.
The extension of the voting period will mitigate some of the complaints.
There have been reports of some violence in south Sudan, because, we presume there is competition.
We cannot tell what would have happened in the North if some (13) political parties had not withdrawn,” said EU chief observer, Veronique de Keyser.
In the run-up to the polls, US Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley, expecting violence and massive polling irregularities, had indicated that the Obama Administration had resigned to accepting any verdict as a way of moving forward the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA), signed in 2005 in Naivasha, Kenya.
Crowley said, “We are talking about implementing specific obligations under the comprehensive Peace agreement that lead to the important referenda that will occur next January.
We want the CPA implementation to continue on schedule.
This election is part of the process.
Ultimately we think there is value in giving the people of Sudan an opportunity to participate in the broader political process for the first time in a quarter a century.

15 april 2010 15:41:00

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