In most countries, being wanted on charges of genocide would be detrimental to one’s political career, to say the least. Not so in Sudan, where President Omar al-Bashir has won re-election with a reported 94 percent of the vote.
So how does a man wanted on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide get so overwhelmingly re-elected President of a country? Well, it takes bombs, bullets, and repression, basically more of the same of what Bashir has offered for 25 years.
The election was not an expression of the people’s will. Widespread boycotts by the main opposition parties and apathy over the inevitability of the results kept turnout levels low (46% according to the government, 30-35% according to African Union monitors). And voting was out of the question for millions of people who are displaced or under attack.
Some 5.2 million people cast votes in the Sudanese elections, according to Sudan’s own Electoral Commission. But that is less than the number of people in Sudan in need of humanitarian assistance according to the latest UN numbers. Over 200,000 people are reported to have been newly displaced by violence in Darfur since January 2015.
Indeed, Darfur is seeing the highest levels of violence and displacement since the height of the genocide a decade ago. And at leaset 3,700 bombs have been dropped on civilian targets in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
More than a decade after a genocide started in Darfur, the killing is still raging with no end in sight. Peace negotiations mediated by the African Union remain in a stalemate. There is discussion of ending the life-saving UN peacekeeping mission there. Lobbyists from Sudan are in Washington, trying to end the crippling sanctions on the regime. And many members of the international community are embracing visits with Bashir.
Bashir has claimed he is open to a National Dialogue, yet has failed to move forward. The Sudanese government refused to attend a preparatory meeting mediated by the African Union, saying that the opposition would use it to delay elections.
Despite the clear increase in violence in Sudan, the international community is sending mixed signals to Bashir: statements of condemnation are followed by positive diplomatic overtures. The United States, United Kingdom, and Norway, the so-called “Troika”, denounced Sudan’s “failure to create a free, fair, and conducive elections environment”. Yet, as the sham elections unfolded and UN diplomats were refused visas to enter Darfur, the United States awarded a visa to the Sudanese Minister of Finance to attend World Bank meetings in Washington, DC, and scheduled a meeting with U.S. officials to push for the removal of U.S. sanctions.
If there is anything potentially positive coming out of the latest election results, it is that now that they have taken place the Sudanese government should move forward on talks about democratic reforms. If they do not, the United States and the rest of the world must be ready to back statements of condemnation with real consequences, including refusal of travel and high-level diplomatic visits.
How does a man wanted on charges of genocide gain re-election as President? In addition to his own tried and true policies of oppression and abuse, there must also be a failure on the part of the international community.
More of the same is what Bashir promises. And if the stance of the international community does not change, more of the same is what the people of Sudan will get with a future under Bashir.