El-Fasher, Sudan President Omar al-Bashir is pushing hard for a win in war-torn Darfur in Sudan’s key elections this weekend, hoping for a boost in his legitimacy in the face of international war crimes accusations. But he faces a hostile population in a vote observers say is deeply flawed.
Rebels in Darfur have urged a boycott of the three days of voting, which begins today, and many among the 2.5 million refugees driven from their homes by years of war in the western region have not registered to vote. Several parties have pulled out of the race, complaining that al-Bashir’s government has skewed the contest.
Since 2003, this vast arid region has been the scene of a bloody conflict between the Arab-led government in Khartoum and ethnic African rebels. At least 300,000 have been killed and millions driven from their homes in a war that was marked by atrocities by pro-government Arab militias against Darfur villagers.
The landmark elections taking place across Sudan were supposed to go toward healing that conflict — along with the separate north-south war that tore Africa’s largest nation apart for decades.
But in the packed Abou Shouk camp outside the Darfur town of El-Fasher, many refugees see little point in voting. Some said they would have considered voting for the southern candidate for president, but he was among those who dropped out of the race.