Sudan churches' leader urges acceptance of poll result
The general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches has urged citizens in Africa's biggest country to accept the outcome of an election that gave victory to President Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.
"Our perspective is, because voting went on peacefully, we would also like the parties to accept the outcome of the elections and move forward," the Rev Ramadan Chan Liol, a Baptist, told Ecumenical News International.
Al-Bashir was declared the winner of the election on 26 April, following a four-day period of voting which began on 11 April and ended on 15 April.
In 2009 the Hague-based International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president on charges of crimes against humanity committed in western Sudan's Darfur region, where the Janjaweed, a pro-government Arab militia, has been accused of atrocities and genocide.
The elections were labelled as the first multi-party poll in Sudan since 1986. In the Islamic-majority north, however, only small opposition parties were running against President al-Bashir and his party after southern parties refused to participate. There were also complaints of delays, confusion over names and symbols, as well as the withdrawal of some candidates.
Chan said that although many things did not go right in the election, rejecting the results would worsen security and complicate the process toward a referendum scheduled for 2011 on independence for the southern part of the country.
"The next thing is to focus on the referendum. It is the next big thing," said Chan, whose council groups Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. Many people, including church leaders, in the south where Christianity and traditional African worship predominate, support the creation of a separate State.
The referendum follows the 2005 signing of a peace agreement that ended a 21-year civil war, which had pitted the south of the country against the predominantly Muslim north.
Chan urged the people of the region to see the election as an experience that would help them to plan and organize better elections in future.
He said: "Those countries that have free and fair elections did not learn how to do it overnight. It took them a very long time to get it right. For the Sudanese people this is the first [election] after 24 years. We hope we can minimise the logistical and administrative problems in future."