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Sudan: Voting underway in Darfur's 3-day referendum polls

Sudan: Voting underway in Darfur's 3-day referendum polls

Omar al-Bashir

Residents of Sudan’s Darfur began voting on Monday, in a referendum to determine whether the region should keep its five states or reunite as one entity with a semi-autonomous administration.

The poll will continue until April 13 and is expected to maintain the five-state system, which Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s ruling party says is more efficient. Observers however say it gives Khartoum greater control over Darfur area, which is about 500,000 km2, and which bears important resources like oil, uranium and copper.

Omar Ali Gemaa, head of the Darfur referendum commission, said nearly 3,500,000 people from Darfur will vote at 1430 polling stations including polling stations inside IDP camps.

Rebels in Darfur took up arms in 2003, as they accused Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir’s government of neglecting the region. As many as 300,000 people have died in the conflict, mainly due to illness and starvation. About 2.5 million people are currently displaced, according to United Nations estimates. The International Criminal Court has indicted al-Bashir for alleged war crimes, sources say.

And on Saturday, the US State Department said in a statement, the “insecurity in Darfur and inadequate registration of Darfuris residing in internally displaced persons (IDPS) camps prohibit sufficient participation”.