Sudan elections is officially over today and I’m happy that the overall situation during the balloting was peaceful, at least that’s what happened in Malakal town, the capital of Upper Nile State in Southern Sudan.
I’m grateful that I got privilege to be one of accredited media who could cover the Sudan elections. I had freedom to visit every polling centre in Malakal and the whole counties in Upper Nile State, taking photos, and interviewing people.
This experience was completely different than what I had in Afghanistan back in 2003/2004 when I became a Publications Officer for UNDP Voter Registration and Election Project for Afghan presidential election. I was allowed to cover the election but it was very limited due to security threat.
This was the first multi-party elections in Sudan after 24 years. I was very excited to be able to go and witness this historical event with my own eyes! However, the weather remains a challenge in Sudan. I have never experienced the heat like in Sudan! If you want to get your skin tanned within minutes, just go to Sudan.
The good thing when I covered the elections in town is I got a chance to do small culinary tour. On the first day of elections I had lunch at Ethiopian restaurant which I didn’t do it for a long time. Ethiopian food is one of my favourite food such as Injera, the sourdough pancake-like/large thin flat bread of Ethiopia made from the Teff cereal, and Kefta, the Ethiopian Spiced ground beef kabob.
On the second day I was invited by my local colleagues to have lunch at local restaurant. We had traditional Sudanese food which was made from flowers, wheat, and vegetable. I don’t remember its name but I recall my colleague called it a “Shiluk food” (Shiluk is one of the tribes in South Sudan).
When I went to the polling stations on the first and second days, I saw the excitement of the voters. They came to polling centre at 6 a.m. and in fact the balloting was scheduled to start at 8 a.m. The first day was a little bit chaotic because the ballot papers and boxes were delivered late to the polling centres due to logistical problem so most polling centres started very late between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Some of them even decided to open on the second day instead.
On the second day, the voters didn’t seem to lose their enthusiasm, they didn’t mind to line up under the sun for hours to wait for their turn to vote. There was this old man lined up in Tharawa polling centre. The Abuna (old man)’s name is BA, he is 80 years old and has voted several times in his life. “I have voted several times but I don’t remember when except the one in 1986 and now,” said Mr. A.
The man who was retired from his work as a Forest Oversee Officer six years ago said that back in 1986 he voted in Malakal.
BA came to the polling station to queue at 9 a.m. because he was very eager to vote, “I’m going to vote someone who has been very active to work and is going to bring Sudan into a good future.”
The Abuna was finally being called to cast his ballot at 12 noon and he was helped by one of the polling centre’s officers witnessed by political party’s accredited representatives. “1986 elections didn’t have a lot of ballot boxes as we have now,” Mr. A compared, “Although the process was complicated but I’m very happy to finally be able to vote and I urged all my six children to vote too.”
If there was an old man who has voted several times, there was also a middle 40 year-old lady who surprisingly has voted twice in her life. She is a teacher of Boys Banderi Primary School, her name is MP. “This will be my second time to vote. I voted for the first time when I was still in the senior grade of secondary school back in 1984,” said Ms. P whose name listed as a voter in Lelo constituency in Central Malakal. 1984 elections was a single-party elections to People’s Assembly in Sudan.
The teacher who teaches social science said that there is the difference in her motivation to vote back in 1984 and now (2010). “Before, I went to vote without any goal. I didn’t know the real meaning of the elections because I was still very young,” explained Ms. P, “Now, I’m voting hoping that the future leader will bring us into a better future and a good change such as providing more schools, health centres, and clean water.”
BA and MP may have come from two different generations. However, they have the same hope that the future leaders of Sudan should bring a better future for their people and the country.