Return to Transcripts main page


Sudanese Electoral Disputes Sully Comprehensive Peace Agreement Goals

Aired April 7, 2010 - 15:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a new blow to the credibility of Sudan's upcoming election, as the main opposition party boycotts the poll. Is the U.S.-brokered peace deal between North and South Sudan unraveling?

Good evening, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to the program.

The future of Sudan and its vast oil wealth could depend on the outcome of the first multiparty elections there in decades. But the main political party in the South, the SPLM, today said that it's boycotting most of the upcoming races. It accuses the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of massive fraud.

The election is a crucial step in a process to heal the wounds of a North-South civil war that has cost 2 million lives over several decades. The 2005 peace deal also paved the way for a referendum next year on whether the South can secede.

In a moment, we'll hear from representatives of both Sudan's government and the South's SPLM, as well as from a former U.S. government official who was responsible for Sudan policy.

But first, CNN's David McKenzie sets the scene for us.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is not how Sudan's historic free election was supposed to happen. The Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement has pulled out of the Northern and Darfur vote just days before the ballot. It has withdrawn its president candidate, Yasser Arman, a Muslim. He was the only serious contender against Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan, the world's only sitting president indicted on war crimes.

International monitoring groups say his party has engaged in widespread vote-rigging, claims his party denies. The International community has worked hard to make a fair election possible. But analysts say if that fails, the reality could be far worse.

ZACH VERTIN, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: If they do not go according to plan, and if peaceful resolution isn't found, then I think it's very possible that we see a return to conflict in Sudan.

MCKENZIE: War raged for two decades in Sudan, pitting Christian and animist rebels in the South against the Muslim North, leaving more than 2 million dead and a fractured nation.

After protracted negotiations, war ended in 2005 with a peace agreement that called for elections and a referendum in the South on whether to split from the North.

At stake, Sudan's massive oil reserves, found mostly in the South, but still controlled by Khartoum. It's a potential boon for the poor nation, and for Western companies if a fair election allows for lifting of sanctions.

But the North-South divide is not the only conflict in the way. A separate deadly conflict in the Darfur region where government-backed Janjaweed militia waging a brutal campaign against African tribes has killed hundreds of thousands.

The U.S. government and International Criminal Court pointed a finger directly at Omar al-Bashir. He has dismissed the allegations and hopes through this election to gain legitimacy at home and abroad.

But people in southern Sudan are already looking past this election, with a referendum on independence, which they hope will end decades of conflict and make them Africa's newest nation.

Dave McKenzie, CNN, Nairobi.


AMANPOUR: And joining me now is the Sudanese ambassador to the United States, Akec Khoc. Thank you so much for joining us.

Let me ask you first, then, all these allegations of irregularities, the pullouts, the boycott by the SPLM, what do you say to that? How can you have a decent election if it's not even going to be contested by that main party?

AKEC KHOC, SUDANESE AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, Amanpour and CNN, for inviting me. Yes, the election is a mandate of the CPA, signed in 2005, for democratic transformation of the country. Enough preparations have been done to have a free and fair election through the 2008 enactment of the electoral law by the parliament and through the formation of an independent national election commission.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Khoc, Ambassador Khoc, you say that preparations have been made for free and fair elections, but there are many allegations that it is anything but free and fair, and there's been a huge amount of manipulation, rigging, denying certain elements to be registered to vote.

Let me play you what Pagan Amum has said, who's the secretary general of the SPLM, the main Southern party.


Listen to what he said yesterday.


PAGAN AMUM, SPLM SECRETARY GENERAL (through translator): There is a constant violation of the election rules in the democratic traditions. They use the state resources and totally control it. The governing National Congress Party controls the election commission. This is the reason we are announcing that we will boycott the election on all levels.


AMANPOUR: So what is the result for you, for the NCP, of an election in which the opposition party does not contest it?

KHOC: Well, I have to state very clearly that I represent the Government of National Unity and from the South, and so I do not speak for the NCP. So I will only reiterate that the National Election Commission has been formed to conduct a free and fair election.

I represent all (inaudible) who have divergent of views, including Pagan Amum, who feels that the elections are not free and fair.

AMANPOUR: And what do you feel? What do you feel? Do you feel that they are? I mean, you are a member of the SPLM in a national unity government.

KHOC: The SPLM will speak for me. But in my capacity as the ambassador of Sudan, I reflect what the National Election Commission has said. And it is up to the international community and the Sudanese to judge whether it is free and fair.

But I cannot judge it myself from here to say that it is not free and fair or it is free and fair.


KHOC: Yes, we've heard of irregularities in the census, in the media, and in the freedom of expression, through the security organs.


KHOC: Yet -- yet the -- what the minister of foreign affairs has said is that they are free and fair.

AMANPOUR: OK. Well, I'm hearing you repeat what the government says, what the election commission says, but I don't hear you give a ringing endorsement as a representative of the Sudanese government, so let me ask you another question.

Obviously, for President al-Bashir, the election is a big test of legitimacy. But there is another big event scheduled for next year, and that's the referendum. Do you believe that the -- that the government, the ruling government, will allow the referendum to stand if the South votes to secede?

KHOC: I strongly believe so, because the agreement has provided for it. The agreement has provided for monitors to supervise and monitor that referendum. The government of national unity has committed itself to respecting the outcome of such a referendum. And so I do not see any reason why the government of national unity will not respect that, because, unfortunately, if it would be otherwise, then there will be serious consequences internally and maybe externally.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you one of the serious issues that affects the president of Sudan, Mr. al-Bashir, obviously, as you know, indicted by the international criminal court on war crimes charges. Do you accept that indictment?

KHOC: As a person, my opinion will not count. But as the representative of the government of Sudan, the government of national unity has repeated that it does not accept indictment. The SPLM, the party of which I come from originally -- and now I'm not talking for the SPLM -- there are other representatives -- they have encouraged cooperation with the ICC. So these are two positions in a coalition government that I have to reflect.

AMANPOUR: Very good. Ambassador Khoc, thank you so much for joining us from Washington, D.C.

And next, we'll hear about the upcoming elections from the leader of the opposition, Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement, the SPLM, and from a former U.S. State Department official who helped direct American policy on Sudan under President George W. Bush.




HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Threats to progress are real. Reform of key institutions has been sporadic. And true democratic transformation envisioned in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement remains elusive. Violence in the South is rising, and tensions continue in border areas.

So, today, the parties in Sudan have a choice: They can revert back to a dark era of conflict, or they can move forward together toward a lasting peace.


AMANPOUR: So can Sudan achieve that lasting peace, despite concerns about the risk of new violence?

Joining me now is the former U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Jendayi Frazer. She served under President George W. Bush. And Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, he's a senior member of the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement and the southern Sudanese representative to the United States, joining me here in the studio.

Let me first turn to you, Mr. Ezekiel Gatkuoth. You're boycotting the elections. You've heard what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says. There's a risk that these elections will not bring the lasting peace that was envisioned.

Why are you boycotting? And aren't you afraid of the violence that's going to result?

EZEKIEL LOL GATKUOTH, SUDAN PEOPLE'S LIBERATION MOVEMENT MEMBER: First of all, thank you for having me on the show, Christiane. The agreement that we have signed in 2005 was actually meant to address two issues. One of them is to actually transform Sudan, because Sudan has a history of marginalization of the marginalized areas, so having this election is very important, and, also, a referendum in 2011, January 9th.

So based on the process that we have gone through in the electoral process, it is very clear that the conditions are not conducive for us to participate in the election in the North. But in the South, we are still having elections...


AMANPOUR: So what will that mean?

GATKUOTH: It means that, you know, you know very well in Darfur we cannot have elections in Darfur because of the ongoing genocide that is happening in Darfur. And also in the North, it is very clear that the National Congress Party, the party of Omar al-Bashir, is fully in control of the ballots that are printed in the Central Bank of Sudan.

AMANPOUR: Well, that's certainly what the general secretary of your party has said. Let me turn to Ambassador Frazer.

It was under the Bush administration that the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, and there was a lot of hope for that. This election has so much at stake for the United States and for U.S. policy. Where do you see it going? And if the SPLM boycotts in the North, is this just going to be a failure?

JENDAYI FRAZER, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, as you said, the election is a central piece of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and its implementation and, as Ezekiel said, with the intention of democratic transformation.

The problem with the election, of course, is it's coming so close to when the referendum will be held in January 2011. In the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, it was presumed that it would come almost midway in this interim period of six years, so it should have happened a good year or two years ago.

But I think that, as happens in Sudan often, they will muddle through.


I think it's extremely unfortunate that the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement is withdrawing. I am very -- I was very confident that their candidate, Yasser Arman, who I respect tremendously, would have had a chance to give the people of Sudan a choice, so that they wouldn't have to be left with an indicted war criminal in the person of al-Bashir.

So it's really quite unfortunate, from my perspective, that the opposition is essentially opting out and leaving the Sudan people hanging.

AMANPOUR: Well, there, Mr. Ezekiel, that's a fairly tough indictment of what you're just doing right now. You're leaving the people of Sudan hanging.

GATKUOTH: If you look at it, Christiane, we are withdrawing because Bashir, as you know very well, is an indicted man. He wanted to legitimatize himself. By all means, he cannot lose this election. He has to actually do anything that he can to rig this election.

And all the arrangements that have been made already, it's very clear that he has rigged the election, and he wanted to win by all means to legitimatize himself. So it's very clear.

AMANPOUR: There are insiders who claim to say that there may have been a deal made, a secret deal between the SPLM and the NCP that you wouldn't contest in the north in return for being allowed to see through the referendum and secede. Is there any truth to that?

GATKUOTH: There is nothing like that. I can tell you, as a representative of the SPLM, in the leadership, there is nothing like that.

AMANPOUR: Does that sound vaguely plausible, Ambassador Frazer?

FRAZER: Well, yes, I think that it's very clear, as Ezekiel said, that the National Congress Party and President Bashir have done everything to manipulate these elections. They are, indeed, trying to rig it. They've done it from the point of the consensus to the voter registration to preventing the opposition from having freedom of assembly, freedom of expression. And so it is clear that they are definitely trying to manipulate these elections.

However, that said, I think that the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement is doing Bashir a favor by withdrawing. He has wanted them to do so. In fact, in his typical fashion, he has bullied them, saying that, if, in fact, the election doesn't go forward, and if they boycott, they will not have a referendum in January 2011.

So I'm wondering if they're not trying to have their cake and eat it, you know, too, with their cake and ice cream, too, with the notion of withdrawing and not boycotting and going forward with the election in southern Sudan. What it suggests to me is that the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement is thoroughly finished with the notion of a unity, you know, trying to have a unified Sudan, and that they're, in fact, preparing for secession.

AMANPOUR: Okay. But in the middle of this, obviously, what worries everybody is the possibility of renewed, full-scale war. Do you not see that, Mr. Gatkuoth?

GATKUOTH: You know, in the elections, yes, there will be some incidences here and there. But the only thing that will return us back to war is the referendum. We have been fighting from 1955, before the independence of Sudan in '56, until '72. We had an agreement, and that agreement was meant to have the referendum in 1982, 10 years transitional period.

AMANPOUR: You know, there just seems to be two competing momentums, here. On the one hand, President Bashir wants legitimacy from this election. On the other hand, you seem to be saying, "Well, this election doesn't matter. What we really want is the referendum, and to secede."

I see you nodding, Ambassador Frazer. I mean, it looks like there are two competing agendas, here.

FRAZER: That's right, and I think that that's absolutely the case. The SPLM is basically throwing in the towel in terms of the notion of even contesting in the North. They're essentially saying, "We will go and we will have a separate country, and so what we really need to concentrate on is the January 2011 referendum."

And I certainly understand that sentiment. What I fear, though, is that Bashir is not honorable. He goes back on his word. The national congress party operates tactically and that, come January 2011, we're going to find that they are, in fact, not going to allow that referendum to go forward.

And so the low-intensity conflict that we see today will, in fact, escalate to a full-blown war that we saw -- the 22-year civil war that killed more than 2 million people, which would be a very dark future for the Sudanese people.

AMANPOUR: So what plans do you have? What agenda do you have, Mr. Gatkuoth, for avoiding a full-scale civil war breaking out, again?

GATKUOTH: It is very important that the referendum is conducted on time, on the 9th of January 2011.

AMANPOUR: Yes, but it might not be.

GATKUOTH: It is very important for us to go and negotiate with the North, with the post-2011 arrangement, the issue of oil, the issue of pipelines. These are the things that we needed to discuss with the North.

We are cooperating with the North to have a peaceful divorce, because it is very clear that the issue of Sudan is not accommodative to many marginalized people, like the (inaudible) of Sudan is Islamic and Arab country. So...

AMANPOUR: But do you think that there will be, in any event, a peaceful divorce? The North, you know, is mindful of the fact that so many of the oil reserves are in your territory...

GATKUOTH: I think that...

AMANPOUR: ... or very close to the border.

GATKUOTH: ... there is a possibility of having a peaceful divorce, because it is very clear, if you have a post-2011 arrangement, discussing the cooperation with the North, and that's true...



AMANPOUR: And I just want to say, I'm just being told that there's some breaking news coming from Sudan, that the E.U. is pulling out its monitors from Darfur. Ambassador Frazer, what do you think that will mean?

FRAZER: Well, I think that it really suggests that the election -- especially in Darfur -- is not likely to go forward. I noticed the National Congress Party will continue to push for that election. And many of the international community would feel that it's unfortunate that the election is not going forward.

You have tens of thousands of monitors, independent monitors, who would be there. There's a chance that the opposition could win more seats. But if they pull out, then, in fact, the National Congress Party wins everything.

And so I think, though, the situation in Darfur really is not opportune for an election. You have -- my understanding is -- only 100,000 of the IDPs, internally displaced persons, who have actually registered out of 2.6 million.

So it really doesn't look like in Darfur you have a state of emergency that you can hold any form of even unfair election. It's really not; the conditions aren't there.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you...

FRAZER: But I blame -- I blame the opposition parties, as well. After all, there are some 72 opposition parties, 12 candidates for president. Why couldn't the opposition parties come together and field one candidate and do more to create an environment where the Sudanese people actually have a choice?

AMANPOUR: Right. Well, I'll put that to Ambassador Gatkuoth in a second.

But I wanted to ask you, you were obviously a Bush administration official. What do you see as the success or failure of the Obama administration policy, the increasing offer of carrots, as well as sticks to the Bashir government? Has it produced anything?

FRAZER: Well, no, I think the biggest challenge for the Obama administration is they're divided, and you see very mixed signals coming out from the special envoy versus the secretary, the secretary's spokesperson just yesterday.

And you also have people within the National Security Council at the White House who don't agree on the policy. And so they came out -- they spent almost a year developing this notion of a new policy toward Sudan to rebalance the emphasis on Darfur and on the South, which are very integrated, and were integrated even in the Bush administration, and they came up with this notion of carrots and sticks, which every administration has, so they wasted almost a whole year on a policy review, and yet they're still talking with many different voices.

And I also think that the Obama administration -- to get them on one page -- the president himself has to exercise leadership. The president has to come out and say what he thinks should happen in Sudan. He needs to pick up the phone and talk to African leaders, so that he can get them onboard with the position that the United States is looking for.

And he needs to also exercise his diplomacy in places like China, because probably the United States, China, and the African Union will be the critical, critical players in the future of Sudan, besides the Sudanese people and government itself.

AMANPOUR: OK. And last word to you, Mr. Gatkuoth. You've just heard Ambassador Frazer question the leadership credentials of the opposition, letting the Sudanese people out, hang out to dry because you don't want to contest those elections. What do you see now for the next foreseeable future between the election and the referendum?

GATKUOTH: Let me just add one thing before I answer that. It is very important for us to avoid the war. This agreement, the CPA, was an agreement witnessed by the international community, more than 17 countries. The U.N. and everybody was witnessing this.

So it is very important for us to have a soft landing in 2011 by having the international community engaged in this, to make sure that we have a peaceful divorce.

The last one is about the opposition. I think it is very important for the oppositions to come together and unite themselves to see a united front. But to be honest with you, in 2011, the world should be ready to have two countries. Sudan is going to disintegrate.

AMANPOUR: Sudan is going to disintegrate?


AMANPOUR: And that's your final word.

GATKUOTH: I am sure.

AMANPOUR: Ezekiel Gatkuoth, Ambassador Frazer from Washington, thank you so much for joining us.

GATKUOTH: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And on Twitter, we are discussing whether the credibility of the first multiparty Sudanese elections in more than two decades is now in question, as you've just heard. You can weigh in on that using that hash tag "AmanSudan," and that's at

And next, in our "Post-Script," we remember a signature event in the breakup of another country. It was Poland at the beginning of World War II. We'll have that, when we return after a break.



AMANPOUR: And now our "Post-Script." And we turn to the tragic disintegration of another country 70 years ago at the beginning of half-a- century of oppression for Poland, first under the Nazis and then under the Communists.

It's the Katyn forest massacre of 1940, when Soviet secret police killed more than 20,000 Polish officers and other prisoners, after Germany and Russia invaded Poland and divided it up.

Today, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Polish counterpart honored the victims in a ceremony in Katyn. In all, 6 million Poles were killed during World War II, 16 percent of the country's population at the time, and that's a higher percentage of losses than any other country during that war.

That's it for now. We'll be back tomorrow. Until then, you can follow our program on For all of us here, goodbye from New York.