The Sudanese Foreign Ministry has refuted the criticism of the United States on the holding of the referendum in Darfur, claiming Khartoum has taken serious steps to create a suitable environment for a credible vote. More than 900,000 people cast their vote on Monday, according to referendum officials.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali El Sadig responded to concerns of the USA that the registration of voters was insufficient in a press statement on Monday. He commented that 90 percent of qualified voters in Darfur have been registered, and this included residents of camps across the region.
“Insecurity in Darfur and inadequate registration of Darfuris residing in internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps prohibit sufficient participation,” the State Department said on Saturday. It is seriously concerned that voting under the current rules and conditions cannot be considered as a “credible expression of the will of the people in Darfur”.
'The negative statement of the USA does not serve the ongoing peace process.'
El Sadig further pointed to the presence of monitors from regional organisations and foreign countries, including the African Union and the Arab League, during the three-day referendum. An observer from Algeria, Hussam Umaira, in a camp west of Nyala was quoted by the Sudan News Agency (SUNA) as saying that the voting was progressing well.
Monitor teams of the Arab League observed the situation in 85 polling centres, SUNA reported. Head of team of monitors, Abdelatif Ebaid, said that the turnout at some centers was high and medium in others, “but it is early to give a final conclusion about the turnout”.
Ministry spokesman El Sadig: “The negative statement of the US State Department on the Darfur referendum does not serve the ongoing peace process at all, but increases the intransigence of the rebel movements and their continued refusal of peace.”
The Ministry dismissed allegations of the USA that security is absent in the Darfur region. “The President visited the states of Darfur last week without any violation or incident,” El Sadig said.
The US-based Enough Project issued a statement on Monday, too, denouncing the vote. “The Darfur referendum is another smokescreen being deployed by the Khartoum regime to divert attention from the continuing deadly conflict there and the regime’s efforts to undermine local Darfurian leadership,” said John Prendergast, Founding Director of the activist group.
The displaced people, native administration leaders, activists and civil society forces have called for the population of Darfur to resist and boycott the referendum. Political opposition parties such as the National Umma Party are speaking out against the voting.