Sudan’s First Multi-party Elections for 24 years: Where do we go from here?

The Workshop First Multi-party Elections for 24 years: Where do we go from here?, celebrated in Nairobi, Kenya, due to the lack of security in Sudan, was organized in collaboration with UNDP Kenya, and in the framework of the Women’s Leadership for Peace and Security in the Greater Horn of Africa project.

Attention will soon switch to the South of the country and its referendum as an integral part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in 2005 between the mainly Muslim north and the south where most people are Christian or practice traditional beliefs, ending Africa’s longest-running civil war.

Sudanese members of the Group of 40 Women Leaders targeted by the Women’s Leadership for Peace and Security in the Greater Horn of Africa project were fully engaged in the electoral process at different locations within the country, in particular through civic and voter education campaigns. Workshop participants examined the opportunities of the political process for women to actively support the peaceful, stable implementation of the CPA. Conflict prevention and mitigation being synonymous with sound election management practice, best and worst-case scenario analysis were used to assess what needs to be done and how to support a societal coalition against violence in the time remaining before the 2011 referenda and popular consultations –practical tools and approaches that may be utilized to support electoral/referenda conflict management strategies led by women on the ground.

Practical lessons from Kenya’s national dialogue and reconciliation process and institutions sharpened the focus of the violence prevention strategy development exercise we are proposing. The 2007 Kenyan crisis revealed how quickly close friends and neighbors can turn against one another and fall into instinctive tribalism. The active role of civil society, serving as a bridge across different groups, has proven invaluable in placing pressure on the parties to reach an agreement and implement the accords . To try and avoid the post-election turmoil of 2007, Kenya will vote on a referendum for a new constitution on 4 August. Most significantly, one day to the deadline for manual registration of voters, the Interim Independent Election Commission (IIEC) had exceeded its original target of 10 million by 1.8 million . With very limited time and resources, the IIEC recruited and trained staff, introduced new electoral technologies, managed voter apathy and a nationwide media strategy to meet and eventually exceed these targets. Likewise, relevant lessons and strategies for Sudan were derived from the operation and accomplishment of the Kenya’s Commission of Experts on Constitutional Review, the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, National Cohesion Commission, the Independent Boundaries Review Commission and the Dispute Court.

Preceded by a preparatory e-discussion, the work meeting brought together relevant Sudanese stakeholders, Kenyan, UN, AU, EU and diplomatic mission officials, together with CSO leaders that have been mostly involved in post-election reconciliation activities and violence prevention strategies in Sudan and Kenya, as well as academic and think tank experts.