Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

When is an election boycott not an election boycott?

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sudanWhen it takes place in Sudan.

Preparations for Sudan’s general elections — due to start tomorrow — were thrown into confusion over the past two weeks as opposition parties issued contradictory statements over whether they were boycotting the polls.

Some announced a total withdrawal, protesting against fraud and unrest in Darfur, only to change their minds days later. Others pulled out from parts of the elections — presidential, parliamentary and gubernatorial votes are taking place at the same time — then changed their minds days later. Others left it up to individual candidates to decide.

Even a day ahead of voting in the divided oil-producing state, serious questions remain.

These confusions are more than mere technicalities.

They will hinder the ability of Sudanese voters to make clear choices when they start queuing up for their first multi-party elections in 24 years.

A slick visit to Darfur’s red carpet camps

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There was a time when visits to Darfur were uncertain affairs, fraught with danger. These days — as long as you travel with the right people and stick strictly to the right route — they can be as comfortable as a coach trip.

The African Union delegation plane touched down in El Fasher, North Darfur’s capital, at 9.35 a.m. on Tuesday. We were on the bus heading back to the airstrip at 4.40 p.m.

Is an independent south Sudan now inevitable?

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So, is it now inevitable that Sudan’s oil-producing south will decide to split away from the north as an independent country in a looming secession referendum in 2011?

That was the conclusion of some observers of a bluntly worded exchange of views between two leading lights from the north and the south at a symposium in Khartoum on Tuesday.

What future for southern Sudan?

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It’s less than a year before Sudan’s first ever national election, so what are people thinking in the south of the country, in an area blighted by two decades of fighting?

In the village of Leer, reminders of civil war are everywhere, such as a large hole where most of the village would crouch, hiding from bomber planes and helicopter gunships.

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