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Campaigns to boost low voter turnout in Darfur referendum

No people are gathered at the polling station in Darfur at the time this photo was taken on Monday 11 April, 2016 (RD)
No people are gathered at the polling station in Darfur at the time this photo was taken on Monday 11 April, 2016 (RD)

The ruling party in Sudan has predicted a large voter turnout for the Darfur referendum. People in Darfur, however, have witnessed few voters at the ballot boxes on the second day of the referendum.

More than 3.5 million people registered to vote, the Darfur Referendum Commission earlier announced. The chairman of the commission reported that more than 900,000 people went out to vote on the first day of the referendum, which runs until Wednesday.

Hamar Basheri, a leading member of the ruling NCP in Sudan, told journalists that he expects 80 percent of all registered voters to turn out, based on observations by monitoring parties in Darfur.

Darfuris who decide to cast their vote on the final referendum day have the option to choose for the abolition of the five Darfur states. The region used to be one state until 1994. A polling result in favour of the unification would lead to the creation of a regional government, as five states join into one semi-autonomous Darfur state.

If they vote against the unification, it means that the region would remain divided in five states,that the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority will be dissolved, and that Khartoum presumably gains more power over Darfur.

“Government employees offered to drive people to the polling centre to cast their vote. Many barely responded.”

The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, signed in 2011, stipulated the holding of the referendum and what should result from its outcome.

Witnesses at polling stations in Darfur do not endorse the ruling party's optimistic expectations on the voter turnout.

Polling station in Abu Shouk camp in El Fasher locality, North Darfur (RD)

One of them told Radio Dabanga how government employees offered people on the streets to drive them to the polling centre where they could cast their vote. “People barely responded to the invitation,” activist Ibrahim Mohamezein in El Geneina, West Darfur, said.

“Government employees drove through the city and invited people through loudspeakers to come to vote. On Monday, many people stayed in their homes here.”

“We found the polling station empty and the staff drinking tea.”

The same campaign to call people to vote was held in Kass in South Darfur and Shangil Tobaya in North Darfur, witnesses reported to Radio Dabanga.

Staff at a polling station in Darfur on Monday (RD)

An activist in North Darfur said that members of the NCP knocked on the doors of houses to ask people to vote. “Many residents refused,” Ibdisam Shumein told Radio Dabanga. “The first day of the voting passed without many people knowing that the referendum is taking place.” 

Workers at empty polling stations had not much to do, the chairman of the Sudanese Congress Party in North Darfur, Amani Hasabou, told Radio Dabanga. She and other party members visited one in El Fasher. “We found no one there. Just the staff and members of the referendum commission drinking tea.”

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