Dar es Salaam- Tanzania (PANA) -- Authorities in Khartoum have rigged the 11-13 A pril elections in the troubled western Sudan region of Darfur to return an indic t ed president and his party to power with catastrophic consequences for Sudan, th e International Crisis Group (ICG) charged Wednesday.
Even as opposition parties threaten a last-minute boycott, the Group said the Na tional Congress Party (NCP) manipulated the 2008 census, drafted the election la w s in its favour, gerrymandered electoral districts, co-opted traditional leaders and bought tribal loyalties.
â?It has done this everywhere in Sudan, but most dramatically in Darfur, where it has greater freedom and means to carry out its strategy because of the ongoin g conflict,â? the Group claimed, adding that winning big in Darfur is central to the NCPâ?s plan to capture enough votes in the North to ensure its continued nat ional dominance.
â?The legal environment for free and fair elections does not exist,â? said Fou ad Hikmat, Crisis Groupâ?s Sudan Special Adviser.
â?The international community should acknowledge that whoever wins will lack legitimacyâ?.
The flawed results of the 2008 census were used to draw electoral districts, app ortion legislative seats and organise the voter registration in ways that favour the NCP.
According to the ICG, census takers worked hard to count the partyâ?s supporter s in Darfur and newcomers from Chad and Niger were reportedly issued identity pa p ers so they can vote as Sudanese citizens.
Most of the estimated 2.
6 million internally-displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps, as well as individuals from groups hostile to the NCP living in â?insecur eâ? neighbourhoods of cities and the population of rebel-controlled areas, were not counted.
Observation missions from the European Union, the African Union and the Carter C entre may help prevent the most flagrant electoral fraud and ballot stuffing, bu t much of the rigging has already occurred, the ICG said.
Furthermore, observers would only assess the quality of the elections and the IC G pointed out that they cannot be expected to make broader recommendations.
â?President Omar al-Bashir, who is under indictment by the International Crimin al Court for multiple atrocity crimes in the Darfur conflict, and the NCP will a l most certainly win the presidential and legislative polls, but it will be up to g overnments and intergovernmental organisations to act to limit the damage,â? ICG said.
In addition to making it clear that the victors lack a genuinely democratic mand ate, they must push for the Darfur peace talks to resume immediately after the e l ections and insist that any Darfur peace deal provide for a new census, voter re g istration and national voting.
The AU, UN, regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and other key international supporters of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended th e generation-long North-South civil war in 2005 should press the Khartoum governm e nt and the Government of Southern Sudan to agree on the critical steps needed to assure a peaceful self-determination referendum in the South in January 2011 and to provide for stability in both North and South in the aftermath of that refere n dum.
â?Since the April vote will impose illegitimate officials through rigged polls, Darfuris will be left with little or no hope of a peaceful change in the status quoâ?, warned EJ Hogendoorn, Crisis Groupâ?s Horn of Africa Project Director.
â ?Instead many will look to rebel groups to fight and win back their lost rights and landsâ?.