Monday, April 12, 2010

Sudan Election Extended by 2 Days

There have been stories about delays in getting the Sudan election going – stories of glitches in erecting polling places, mistaken deliveries of ballots, foul-ups with voter registration lists, and so on. By the way, none of that surprises me, given that it’s been over two decades since Sudan last held an election.

It was widely reported that some southern Sudan leaders were calling for the election period to be extended. I didn’t expect that to happen.

While I was hunting for news sources today, “BREAKING NEWS” began to crop up on site after site. To my surprise, it appears that Sudan has agreed to that extension. The voting period will be extended by two days. You can read the story at the Times, among other places.

The polling places will now stay open into Thursday.

Getting News from Sudan

I was pleased this weekend that NPR had a few stories about the elections in Sudan. But I wanted more detailed, local news, so I was still frustrated. So today I went on a news-hunt. Here I will share some of the sources I have found. I beg you readers to share other sources here in the comments.

Sudan Tribune: First and most basic is the Sudan Tribune. Everyone seems to cite this as one of the core news sources. Right now, their front page is all about the elections.

New Sudan Vision: The New Sudan Vision is a more recently-born source of journalism. Their front page, too, is almost entirely devoted to the elections.

Voice of America is carrying a great deal of coverage, too. I’m not sure how to interpret their journalistic perspective. But if you click here, you can get a digest of all their news about east Africa – most of which (today) is about Sudan’s elections.

VOA “Special Report”: Voice of America has compiled a single page that seeks to compile all the news about the Sudan elections. Click here to find it. In particular, I appreciated a section near the bottom of that page, that has over a dozen links to other news sources. I've just begun checking out a few of them.

Sudan Votes has articles and several interviews in English – so far all focused in Juba. I enjoyed the “man on the street” interviews that their journalists are doing. This site felt more “first person” than any of the other sites I found. [Debbie, they also have some stories in Arabic; perhaps you can explore those.] They are doing first-person interviews and reporting, unlike most of the "national" sources I found.

I also discovered South Sudan Nation, which is another online newspaper. I found it rather more extreme, negative, and polemical than the Sudan Tribune and New Sudan Vision. I'm not quite sure what to make of it. If it the "Fox News" of Sudan? I can't tell.

All of these sources are providing more “on the ground” reporting than I’ve seen in U.S. sources.

I’ll share other sources if I find them. Likewise, if you find other good sources, please let me know.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More on Sudan Elections ... Keep Praying

We are now well into the prayer vigil for Sudan and the elections.

Episcopal News Service has a good story on the Sudan elections here. It begins:
As Sudan heads to the polls this weekend to hold its first democratic elections in 24 years, Episcopalians in the U.S. have been ramping up advocacy and raising awareness of the issues that confront Africa's largest and most war-torn nation amid fears that it could plunge back into civil war.
Richard Parkins and Russ Randle, two leading Episcopal Church advocates for Sudan, have continued to pursue the U.S. Congress and Obama administration pressing them to make the African country's peace agreement a priority and to ensure that fair elections are conducted.
Read the entire story from ENS.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Political Situation in Sudan

[This text is copied from the e-newsletter of the Diocese of Missouri, dated April 8]

If you are following current events in Sudan, you will note the increasing rhetoric and stridency in statements from most participants approaching the upcoming elections. The pronouncements are unwavering and dire, they hold no room for negotiation, and this is not a two sided conflict, but a complex situation.

Bishop Wayne Smith has often reminded us that the on-the-ground situation in Lui is fluid. We do not know as we are planning each mission trip, if some event will change the possibility of travel: political, weather, health. We do not know, we will not know. We open our hearts to understanding what that not-knowing might feel like for our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Lui, and we also learn from their deep faith in Christ which triumphs over this not-knowingness. And we pray.

The new chairperson of the diocesan Companion Relationship Committee, the Rev. Emily Bloemker, articulates this clearly, “We’re the church, we’re not an NGO.” Our initial work with Lui diocese focused on our relationship with them, and an immediate need for available water. As our last deep water well is being completed, our common work is refocusing on supporting the ministry of the Lui diocese. “It’s about establishing a permanent home for the diocese, a place to carry out ministry with dignity.” Make no mistake, there are a lot of needs: the hospital, ongoing support of the Mothers Union, education, Lui diocese infrastructure, among others. Last year the missioners asked Bishop Bullen outright, “It takes money to make these mission trips happen, would you rather use the money spent for our travel on some of these identified needs.?” And he said no, the most important thing is that you come here, that you share worship and fellowship and relationship.

In the fluid process that is Sudan elections, it is possible for the Carter Center to be uninvited from election process oversight on April 1, receive close to an apology and re-invitation on April 3, to announce today that ex-president Carter will be in Sudan during the elections; possible for a party to threaten complete countrywide boycott of elections, then to clarify only certain regions. In this back and forth, we pray alongside our brothers and sisters in Lui diocese.

Prayer Makes Community

The Diocese of Missouri has posted a reflection by the Rev. Daniel Handschy, who has served as missioner and chaplain on a couple of mission trips to Lui. We reproduce it here.

Prayer makes community and community requires prayer

Watch with Me One Hour: excerpt from Church of the Advent’s newsletter, The Scroll (April 2010), by the Rev. Dan Handschy, rector of Advent, and chaplain to the missioners on our most recent trip to Lui in November 2009.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked Peter, James and John to stay awake with him while he prayed. Whenever a person is faced with a difficult situation, it helps to know that others are praying, too.

On our most recent trip to Lui, one of the missioners became very ill, most likely with giardia, (a parasite) which not only messes with a person’s digestion, it also makes a person feel depressed and anxious. The missioner felt not only physically miserable, but emotionally terrified. She had a long night ahead of her. We asked if she wanted us to pray with her. The bishop took the lead, and we all laid hands on her while he prayed. Then, I asked her if she would like someone to sit with her through the night. With tears, she said yes.

We quickly agreed to take an hour each during the night. We put a chair outside the door of her room, and put a candle on a table, so if she woke up, she would see the light of that candle. We made it through that night, and the medicines began to work. She felt a little better in the morning, although it would be weeks after we got home that she would feel back to par.

At a retreat we had in February, she remarked on how the whole event had changed her perspective on prayer. When the bishop had prayed for healing, and we all had laid our hands on her, she said she felt connected to the whole of Christian history.

Anointing and laying on of hands is a very ancient rite for healing. She said that before Lui she hadn’t understood what it meant—now, she knew that it meant others were with you in the crisis. She also said she would never go through the Maundy Thursday Vigil the same way again.
I know from my two trips to Lui, we are a people who think we can do things on our own. But, when it comes right down to it, none of us can get by alone. Sitting through a long, lonely night under African skies makes a person realize how connected we are to one another. The biggest discovery that we can make in mission, certainly the biggest discovery that any of the missioners has made in Lui, is that prayer makes community and community requires prayer. On this side of the ocean, we think we can do without either, but we cannot.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Developments in the Sudan Elections

On April 1, our friends in the Save Darfur Coalition posted a message that read, in part:

Late last night, the largest opposition party in Sudan (the southern based Sudanese People's Liberation Movement) announced it was withdrawing its candidate for president of Sudan from the national elections scheduled for April 11-13. The leaders of SPLM did so reportedly because they were convinced that elections were too flawed to move forward and they did not want to legitimize a process that led to the re-election of President Omar-al Bashir, the architect of the Darfur genocide.

This morning, the remaining major opposition parties (with one exception) followed suit and withdrew their candidates from the presidential ballot. Save Darfur has long said that we do not believe free and fair elections are possible in Sudan given the oppressive political environment that has preceded them. And in the last two days, the decisions by the major opposition parties to withdraw underscore that fact.
LuiNotes is not an official blog of the Diocese of Missouri, nor has the Diocese of Missouri taken any position on these sudden developments. The blog-owners simply want our friends to be aware of these developments.

For more information, read the BBC’s coverage. They offered this headline on Friday, April 2: “US envoy to Sudan Scott Gration is holding a second day of crisis talks after a boycott threatens Sudan's first multi-party national poll in 24 years.”

The story reads:

Most major parties have withdrawn from the presidential elections and some groups have also pulled out of the parliamentary and municipal polls.

Several key parties in the north are also now considering a total boycott.

President Omar al-Bashir, wanted for alleged war crimes in Darfur, now faces only one major presidential challenger.

Veteran Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi has confirmed that candidates from his Popular Congress Party would contest all the polls.

But the BBC's James Copnall in Khartoum says if the other parties go for a total boycott, the credibility of the elections would be damaged almost beyond repair.

'On fire'

The southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) - which serves in a coalition at national level with President Bashir - first announced it was boycotting the presidential election over fraud and security fears on Wednesday.

Other parties in the north followed suit, saying they believed the electoral process had been rigged in favour of Mr Bashir's National Congress Party.

They said the registration process had been flawed and their access to state media and rights to hold rallies restricted.

Then on Thursday evening a loose alliance of parties opposed to President Bashir announced their total withdrawal.

Spokesman Farouk Abu Issa said to go ahead with presidential, parliamentary and municipal vote would risk putting the country "on fire".

"So we ask[ed] for a postponement until we can get a conducive atmosphere for a fair election. The government said no and Bashir said no," he said.

Mr Gration is now trying to convince one of the main northern opposition politicians, former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, his Umma party should contest at least some of the polls for parliament and regional governors' posts.

The party is currently debating whether to opt for a full boycott - if it does, all of the major opposition parties with the exception of Mr Turabi's are likely to follow suit.

Our reporter says it is believed Mr Mahdi will not return to the presidential race, but could let his party members contest the other elections.

Mr Gration said earlier that if the main opposition withdrew from the legislative elections it was not clear whether they would still be held.

Threat over referendum

SPLM presidential candidate Yassir Arman announced on Wednesday that he was pulling out of the election.

He also cited a lack of preparedness for the election in the Darfur region, where a rebellion has been taking place since 2003.

"The people of Darfur in the internally displaced people's camps asked the SPLM not to be involved in the election," he said.

The SPLM is still planning, however, to contest the parliamentary and municipal elections elsewhere in Sudan on the same day as the presidential poll.

President Bashir has threatened to cancel a promised referendum on independence for the south if the SPLM boycotts the poll.

However the SPLM and Western countries have said that the referendum and the election are separate issues, which should not be linked.

The SPLM joined the unity government in 2005 as part of a peace deal ending a two-decade civil war.

Some 1.5 million people died in the conflict between the mainly Muslim North and the South, where most people are Christian or follow traditional beliefs.