Elections in the state of South Kordofan in central Sudan have raised the concern of political circles regarding a new civil war; it seems no party will accept the result of the election, no matter what the outcome. Residents went to the polls to select a governor for the state and representatives to the central parliament in elections that were scheduled to take place in April 2010 but were delayed for almost year over a census disagreement.
The Elections Commission is scheduled to release preliminary results on Sunday and transmit it to the headquarters for certification in mid-May. There is a two weeks appeal window afterwards, for those wishing to challenge the results.
Southern Kordofan, the site of oil fields and important civil war battlegrounds on the undefined north-south border, is key to Khartoum because it neighbors Darfur and the disputed oil-producing border region of Abyei border, another possible flashpoint between both sides in the build-up to the south’s secession.
Contesting the seat of governor are outgoing Governor Ahmed Haroun who is a member of the National Congress Party (NCP) led by President Omar Al-Bashir, and former Deputy Governor Abdel-Aziz Al-Helw, a leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) led by South Sudan leader Silva Kiir. Haroun is accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the ferocious conflict in Darfur, in the far west of the country, in which 300,000 have been killed so far, according to UN estimates.
“The ruling NCP in Khartoum is dealing with the elections as if it were a matter of life or death,” asserted Salah Al-Mane, a member of the Sudanese opposition. “That region is important for several reasons. If Haroun loses it will be an indirect admission of the allegations of the ICC, which is something the regime will not stand for. The oil-rich region Abyei is also located in that state which the southerners want to bring under their control.” Al-Mane added that “the majority does not support the NCP, but Khartoum will continue to rig elections like it did in previous elections that were boycotted by all opposition parties.”
The state is also home to the Nuba Mountains where the Blacks who mostly follow traditional African religions (including Al-Helw) live. The people there fought against Khartoum during Sudan’s civil war that began in 1983 until a peace agreement was signed in January 2005. Other than the African population, several Arab nomad tribes also live there, most prominently the Massiriya and Hawazma tribes.
“Neither side will accept the results if they are not in their favour,” insisted Rifaat Al-Mirghani, an activist in the opposition Umma Party. “I believe South Kordofan will be the spark of the Sudanese revolution against the regime. The southerners will not participate in overthrowing Bashir’s regime because they are busy building their new state, which will be declared on 9 July.”
Al-Mane agrees. “Overthrowing Bashir is the responsibility of northerners,” he said. “Because southerners believe they are no longer concerned with the Islamist disposition of the regime. If the regime does not fall, I expect a war, which will open the doors of hell. Everyone there is armed and no one will surrender.”