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‘Expect many Darfuris to boycott referendum’: camp Sheikhs

April 5 - 2016 NYALA
President Omar Al Bashir during a tour through the states of Darfur (Sudanese media)
President Omar Al Bashir during a tour through the states of Darfur (Sudanese media)

Criticism and protests against the Sudanese President’s referendum campaign in Darfur continue in camps for displaced people in the region.

At a mass rally in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur on Monday, President Omar Al Bashir called on the citizens in Darfur to vote for the referendum on the administrative status of the region, scheduled to be held next week.

Al Bashir started his tour in all five states in El Fasher on Friday. He told the masses that the challenge was the registration for the referendum, which has exceeded expectations and “reached 3.5 million voters… The remaining challenge is to make every citizen vote for their choice.”

The President also attended the signing of a contract for the construction of the Western Salvation Highway between El Fasher and Nyala, at a length of 95 kilometres.


Displaced people in Kalma camp, near Nyala, have ended their day-long protest against the presidential tour and condemned the referendum, demanding Al Bashir to stop the aerial bombardments and targeting of civilians in Jebel Marra and the rest of Darfur. (Photo of protest by RD)

Ali Abdelrahman, a camp Sheikh, told Radio Dabanga that the demonstration against the referendum stopped on the third day after Al Bashir visited Nyala. “The government has become illegitimate and has no right to talk about the issues concerning the Sudanese national sovereignty.

“Al Bashir’s tour in Darfur has confirmed his fear that the referendum will be boycotted by most of the people in Darfur.”

Yacoub Abdallah, also a coordinator of the camps in Darfur, agreed Abdelrahman that the President has come to Darfur in order “to forge the will of the people of Darfur” in the referendum of 11 to 13 April.

He also called for a boycott against the referendum in the coming days. “Most of the Darfuris live in the camps, away from their residences, while Al Bashir wants to settle new people in these residences.”

Anti-referendum campaign

El Sadig El Mahdi, the chairman of the National Umma Party, announced that his party has launched a campaign against the Darfur referendum. Speaking at the Iowa Forum for Peace and Democracy in the United States about the current issues in Darfur, El Mahdi said that Darfur used to be united but was divided into five states.

This was a decision made “to focus on administrative and security control so as try to win over the tribal elements’ loyalty in the leadership of these states”, the chairman said.

It is “meaningless” to hold any referendum with more than three million residents of Darfur in camps for the displaced, and a large number of them in refugee camps abroad. Additionally, a large number is absent as they have joined the armed resistance, El Mahdi said.

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