Darfur votes for its future despite boycott by rebel groups

Sudanese region of Darfur goes to referandum for its future status despite boycott by rebel groups fighting against Sudanese government

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Voting got underway in Sudan's Darfur at 9:00am (0600 GMT), with a slow early trickle of people coming to cast their ballots at polling stations guarded by armed police and decorated with posters urging a strong showing.

Sudanese region of Darfur votes on Monday in a referendum to decide its future status despite a boycott by rebel groups fighting against the Sudanese government.

The people in Darfur will decide on whether to unite Darfur’s current five states into a single region or to conserve the status quo.

The Sudanese government and rebel groups has been fighting since 2003 for the future of region.

However, rebel groups announced that they would boycott the referendum, saying it is unfair.

The two main rebel groups in Darfur, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Army, have called their followers for not taking part in the three-day referendum.

"All polling centres in Darfur's five states opened and no centre has encountered any difficulties," said Omar Ali Jomaa, head of the referendum electoral commission.

He also added,"It is too early to assess the turnout".

What has happened in Darfur?

Darfur was a single region until 1994 when the Sudanese government divided it into three different states and made five in total with another two in 2012. The government claimed the reason of divisions as making governing more effective.

The vast western region has been seriously affected by the conflict since 2003 when ethnic insurgents started to fight against President Omar Al Bashir.

Despite the fact that, rebels demand a single-region system, they claimed the referendum will not be fair due to current unrest and the high number of displaced people who are living in refugee camps.

Omar Al Bashir was indicted by International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity and genocide due to his harsh response to rebels in Darfur in 2003. In addition, Bashir denies all charges against him.

According to the United Nations figures, millions of displaced by conflict and at least 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

TRTWorld and agencies