Tuesday, 20 April 2010

my time as international election observer in Sudan

I am currently out in Sudan, having completed my first role as an international election observer but unable yet to return home due to all flights been held back due to volcanic ash from an Icelandic volcano. This does at least mean that I will certainly be here for the announcement of the election outcome which is scheduled for Thursday.

Sudan is the tenth largest country in the world and the largest in Africa. It has an area of over a million square miles. In the north the population is predominately Islamic by culture although many are black Muslim rather than of Arab origin. In the south the population is African, mainly Christian by culture, although some are animist (pagan). Sudan was ruled by Britain until independence in 1956. The last free election was in 1986. The current Islamic goverment of Omar al Bashir took power in 1989. There had been civil war between north and south until 2005 due to the the south's claims for autonomy and resistance to sharia law. In 2005 the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed which allowed the south substantial autonomy by allowing the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army to form a government. The south has however remained unstable in part because of tribal tensions within its own borders.

I came here as a member of a party of 49, comprising seasoned observers, academics, lawyers and ex-military in particular under the auspices of a London based organisation, The Centre for Foreign Policy Analysis. My posting was to Malakal the capital of a southern state known as Upper Nile State. I recorded a video diary for 3 days, starting with the day of arrival the day before the election started on 11th April. I thought that this was the best way to record my immediate impressions of the election process.

This is my report at the end of the first day (April 11th):

And this is the second day.....

In the event the voting in the South was extended for a couple of days. We left Malakal on 15th and returned to Khartoum. We are now enjoying an unplanned stay at the Khartoum Hilton and experiencing much more of Sudan - it's history and culture - as we await the election result and also our return to UK arrangements.