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Darfur leaders announce their stances about referendum

February 8 - 2016 KHARTOUM
Mansour Arbab Younis, leader of the breakaway New Justice and Equality Movement in a press conference in Khartoum in January (file photo)
Mansour Arbab Younis, leader of the breakaway New Justice and Equality Movement in a press conference in Khartoum in January (file photo)

The chairman of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA), Dr El Tijani Sese, has announced his support for the region's status as one administrative unit, while his opponent, Health Minister Bahar Idris Abu Garda promotes the current status of five Darfur states. The breakaway New Justice and Equality Movement opposes the referendum.

In a press conference in Khartoum on Saturday, Sese stated that the security situation in Darfur is conducive for holding the Darfur referendum in April.

In the referendum, the people currently living in Darfur are able to vote on the permanent administrative status of the region. The options are the return of Darfur to one administrative unit or the continuation of the five Darfur states.

The referendum is stipulated in the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), signed in July 2011 by the Sudanese government and the Liberation and Justice Movement, a coalition of 19 breakaway factions of the Darfur rebel movements formed the year before.

The referendum was supposed to be held within one year after the signing of the peace accord. Last October, President Omar Al Bashir announced that the referendum will take place in April 2016.

Darfuris living in the camps for the displaced, Sudanese opposition parties, and civil society activists earlier expressed their grave concerns about holding the referendum in the current circumstances.

'Tribal conflicts'

According to Sese, the administrative division of Darfur into three, and later five states, is the reason for the tribal conflicts in the region. He warned that the conflicts in Darfur pose the largest threat to the country's unity.

The DRA head added that Khartoum should review the current federal system, “as is not based on scientific criteria”.

Sese, together with representatives of the Sudanese government, signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur in July 2011, as head of the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), a coalition of 19 breakaway factions of the Darfur rebel movements formed the year before. He became chairman of the DRA after its establishment in 2012.

In January last year, Sese was ousted as LJM head after multiple accusations of nepotism and fraudulent practices, voiced in particular by Bahar Idris Abu Garda, prominent LJM member and federal Minister of Health.

Sese then formed the National Liberation and Justice Movement (NLJM). Abu Garda was elected as his successor by the LJM board not much later. Both movements were registered as political parties in February.

Five states

On Sunday, Abu Garda held a press conference at the Friendship Hall in Khartoum in which he expressed his party's support of the Darfur referendum and promoted the current status of five Darfur states.

The LJM head said that the DRA is supposed to set an example to the country with regard to social justice, transparency, development, and the return of displaced and refugees.

He called on all Darfuris, including the rebel fighters, to register for the referendum.

'Demographic map'

The New Justice and Equality Party (NJEP), headed by Mansour Arbab Younis, however, strongly objects the holding of the referendum in the current circumstances.

Younis called on all the people in Darfur to boycott the referendum, “as it is intended to change the demographic map of the region”.

He told Radio Dabanga that two thirds of the Darfur population is currently living in camps. “So how can a referendum be held when two thirds of the stakeholders are absent?”

He added that the referendum should be scheduled and organised by the people involved and entitled to it, the Darfuris themselves.

The NJEP joined the National Dialogue, initiated by President Omar Al Bashir, together with two other Darfur rebel breakaway factions, in January.  


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