Sudan requests AU to monitor Darfur referendum
Khartoum has officially requested the African Union to monitor the referendum on the administrative status of the province of Darfur, that is scheduled to take place this April. An AU chief is expected to arrive in Sudan next week in preparations for the upcoming consultative meeting between the government and the rebel movements.
The official Sudanese news agency reported that a government delegation, including the Darfur Regional Authority chairman El Tijani Sese, Amin Hassan Omar of the Darfur Peace Follow-up Office and Sudan's AU representative Osman Nafie, met with the The Chairperson of the AU Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, at the headquarters in the Ethiopian capital.
The delegates asked the observers of the AU to contribute in monitoring the referendum process. Zuma confirmed that the union needs to study how it can participate with the competent authorities.
The referendum offers two outcomes for the citizens of Darfur: for the region to return to one administrative unit or to continue as five separate states. About 1,400 registration and polling centres will be established in all 63 Darfur localities.
The chairman of the referendum commission said in February that the number of those who registered “stands at 3,538,105 out of the about 4.588 million people who are eligible to vote in the region”.
On Thursday, Secretary-General of the regional organisation Arab League, Nabil El Arabi, said that they have send a high-leveled mission to monitor the administrative referendum. “It will stand for its results and support all that want to achieve peace and security in Darfur,” he said according to Sudanese newspapers.
Meeting in Addis
The Sudanese Minister of Information, Ahmed Bilal Osman said the head of the African Union's High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) Thabo Mbeki will arrive in Khartoum next Wednesday to discuss with a consultative meeting in Addis Ababa between the Sudanese government, the National Umma Party, and several of Sudan's armed movements.
The government of Sudan refuses to initiate another National Dialogue abroad
The AU invited the Sudanese government, the National Umma Party, the People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), the Justice and Equality Movement, and the Sudan Liberation Movement, led by Minni Minawi for a consultative strategic meeting. Informal negotiations between Khartoum and Darfur's rebel movements concluded in January, with the willingness to continue their talks.
Minister Osman told reporters in Khartoum that Mbeki will consult them next week on the nature and identity of the consultative meeting.
“The government refuses to initiate another dialogue abroad,” he said, pointing to the National Dialogue in Sudan. The dialogue will not end with the death of party leader Hassan El Turabi as the people are still interesting in the dialogue, Osman said. He reiterated the government's adherence to Doha and Naivasha agreements with the SPLM-N and Darfuri armed movements.
Darfuris in the camps for the displaced, Sudanese opposition parties, and civil society activists have expressed their grave concerns about holding an administrative referendum while the situation in the conflict-torn region is far from secure. Allied opposition parties have announced plans to stage an anti-referendum campaign, amid protests in camps by displaced people.
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