Darfur’s three day referendum is underway (11-13 April) to determine whether the area should remain separated into five states or reunite into one region. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is prosecuted by the ICC for alleged war crimes claims the poll will be the last step of the 2011 Doha peace agreement1.
However the US raised concerns over the election’s credibility under the current circumstances and questions whether internally displaced people and refugees residing in neighbouring Chad will be able to cast their vote. The administrations referendum could reignite tensions in the already unstable and insecure western Sudan region, where an estimated 2.5 million people are still internally displaced. Opposition members say the outcome will predictably be in favour of the government and enable them to have more power over the region. Furthermore, accusations have been expressed over fragmenting the region with no regard for the tribal or ethnic make-up which could destabilize Darfur further, making it less self-sufficient and therefore easier to control.
Despite these concerns, the government claims the referendum is important to mitigate unrest and push towards development in the conflict-torn area of Darfur. Furthermore, Sudan’s Information Minister Ahmed Bilal, stated that the referendum is held in a state of peace and the number of registered voters already exceeds the three million mark; which is proportionally higher than participation in the last presidential elections2.
1 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. 2011. Available at: http://www.peaceagreements.org/wggsite/downloadAgreementDocument/id/875. [Accessed on: 12 April 2016]
2. Aljazeera. 2016. Will the Darfur referendum be credible? (Video file). Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2016/04/darfur-referendum-credible-160410203447641.html [Accessed on: 4 April 2016]