Peace above all

5 May 2011

Peace above all

A few hours after polling in Southern Kordofan State elections ended, the state capital of Kadugli was peaceful and quiet. Similar conditions were reported in other parts of the state.

The atmosphere was a sharp contrast to fears of conflict and violence that some had predicted and even expected.

But the state was clearly taking no chances, judging by the heavy presence of security personnel around town.

The Carter Center issued a statement last week, expressing concerns over security deterioration in the region and urging concerned authorities to ensure genuine and credible process within the state.

Indeed, violence in the Al Rashad locality in the middle of April that left 19 persons dead, 29 injured, more than 50 families displaced and much property destroyed was linked to inter-party conflict. Many saw it as a pre-cursor to the polling process, and some still fear that violence is waiting in the wings until results are announced.

The different political parties say they agreed prior to elections to maintain peace, no matter the results. In press briefings after the polling closed, party representatives continued to make this plea to supporters.

The international community – including Special Representative of the Secretary General in Sudan, Haile Menkerios and Envoy to Sudan Princeton Lyman -- visited the state ahead of polling and reinforced the same appeal.

Peace and security seem to be the buzz words in Southern Kordofan right now – a state that was for long a hub of conflict and war. But not just from concerned authorities, the international community and media.

Speaking to the people of Southern Kordofan, it is clear that the mood is not a mistake or a coincidence on their part. Overall, it would seem, more important than their political affiliations and candidates, is the desire to live in peace.

"We suffered too long because of war," said businessman Abdulrahim Rashid. "I have a party and a candidate that I support, but what I support most is peace."

Musa Issa, a former fighter in the conflict between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and Sudan Armed Forces shared the same thoughts.

"I was in the bush for a reason," he said. "It is sad to see that the same people we fought with have forgotten what we were fighting for. Party politics is not important to me now. There are too may rifts, too many self-seekers. I just want to be able to go about my life peacefully."

"It makes me angry when I see children whose parents died in the struggle failing to make it to school and those we trusted would help them are busy trying to get richer alone," Mr. Issa continued. "That's not what I fought for. All I want now is peace. When I voted, I didn't think along party lines. I thought of what was best for us."

There are those who remain passionate about the parties. Take Munira Ibrahim Kanu, an SPLM party agent, for example.

"I am very sure that my party has a good chance of winning," she said. "But if we don't win... I don't think fighting is the way out. We have suffered for so many years. We cannot go backwards."

Counting of ballots continues. Materials will soon be taken to the Constituency Elections Offices and on to the State Elections High Committee, where preliminary results are scheduled to be announced on 8 May.

There is a hill, just outside the main streets of Kadugli town, where the words have been inscribed so boldly, they are hard to miss.

"Kadugli – A place of peace and love", the writing in Arabic translates. A line below that implores the people to "Vaccinate All Your Children".

That, perhaps, describes the current mood of the people, their collective need above others – peace and development.

Or, as Mr. Rashid said, "We have now tasted peace! No one should think about going back to war."