Sudan’s Votes and Violence;
2015 elections, where is Tajeldin Arja?
Jimmy Carter is in Khartoum. This news came in an announcement from the Sudanese presidency stating that former US president is in Khartoum in a four days official visit started last Monday. The aims of the visit, during which Mr. Carter will meet with senior Sudanese officials including the Sudanese president Omer Al-Bashir includes Sudan’s 2015 proposed general elections. Elections is a favorite topic to the former president Carter whose center had engaged in the support and observation of 96 elections in 38 countries including the previous 2010 Sudanese elections under what is known as the Democracy Program of the center. In general, Carter seems to be advocating that the solution for the Sudanese problem is elections and more elections and from our experience with him in endorsing the results of the 2010 rigged elections, obviously this importance is irrespective of elections conditions. Date and counting of ballots are the golden stones, who actually filled the boxes and the rest of the process are just unimportant formalities.
As explained in a previous article, this view is not exclusive to Mr. Carter but seems to be shared by a wide range of international players. What distinguishes Mr. Carter that he is not bound by the formal requirements imposed on the rest of the international players. He is a former US president, an international advocate for the western model of democratization and – guess what? - A holder of the Nobel prize for peace like Tawakkol Karman. Thus, he can come to Khartoum, have a presidential reception, and then meet with Omer Al-Bashir, the Sudanese president - who is prosecuted by the international justice and no other leader of what is called the free world can meet with - to negotiate the terms by which Al-Bashir can maintain his power seat longer. This is what 2015 elections mean within the current situation of Sudan.
Elections is not the voting day but the process that leads to the voting day, and the environment of this pathway is what makes the voting legitimate and its results meaningful. This environment should among many other conditions allow and protect the freedom of the expression of opinion, since election itself is just another means of expression of opinion. This leads us to the story of Tajeldin Arja.
Tajeldin is a 26 years old blogger and student who was raised up in displacement camps after his family had to escape the tragedy of war in North Darfur. Ten years later, exactly in the night of 24 December 2013, Tajeldin attended a conference discussing the Darfurian problem held in Khartoum. The Chadian president Idris Deby and the Sudanese president Omer Al-Bashir also attended the conference. Tajeldin openly criticized both of them and called on them to bear their responsibility on Darfur’s conflict. Actually, the exact words he used was “OUR TRAGEDY”, and he was so honest about it. Following these words immediately, he was seized and arrested by eight presidential guards who escorted him out of the hall and took him in to unknown place where he has been detained since then. No information or justification about the reason behind his detention nor his situation is available and no official comment or statement from the government. This link is to a video shows early documentation of the displacement of Tajeldin and his family on the mouth of Tajeldin him self and documents the event of his detention from the conference hall.
This what happens in Sudan today when you frankly express an opinion. Now let’s invite Mr. Carter to imagine Tajeldin deciding to run for a parliamentary seat and express these views as part of his campaign, would security agents allow him OR the elections would be the process of assigning those who are preselected by the regime to their seats.
The conducive environment for the election is not an abstract to be used by intellectuals and government officials in discussing the terms of democratic transition in Sudan but it is exactly the Non-occurrence of what happened to Tajeldin Arja. I would really wonder what President Carter discussed with Al-Bashir regarding 2015 elections if Tajeldin case was not in the agenda but also it wouldn’t be a surprise, the date of voting is more important.
It is not only the case of Tajeldin Arja although it is enough to make the point. Sudan government keeps a very harsh censorship on daily newspapers with three of them (Almidan, Rai Alsha’ab and Altayar) prohibited from printing for almost three years now without any official reasons (the first two are official publications of legally registered parties). Moreover, during September and October last year, the regime detained hundreds of politicians and activists from their homes and the reason was their political views and stands. The detention was the easy part of that, others hundreds were killed in the streets in cold blood for demonstrating against price raise and economic measures in September 2013.
Democratic transformation in Sudan is needed and it is the time for it, but the international community should understand that Sudanese people needs them just to do no harm for the process.
Dear president Carter, with all due respect, if we are to have elections we want them to be meaningful not another formality. Can you focus on the eradication of Guinea worm? We would appreciate that more.