Should members of the international community be monitoring Sudan’s elections? The arguments for and against are cogently summarized by Justine Drennan in Foreign Policy (14 April 2015, “Should International Groups Be Monitoring Sudan’s Elections?”).
In the end, however, following the logic of Drennan’s analysis, Sudan’s elections are a very poor candidate for receiving whatever credibility comes from international monitoring. In its earlier deliberations on the question of monitoring Sudan’s election, the African Union Peace and Security Council agreed (this is the same body that described that dismal failure that is UNMID in Darfur as an “exemplar” for future peacekeeping operations in Africa). But then very late in the game the AUPSC decided that it would in fact send 20 monitors to Sudan, from 14 African countries. No satisfactory explanation has been offered for this change of heart.
The thinking of the African Union, revealed in an internal memo of early March 2015, suggests just how a decision was reached not to monitor Sudan’s election:
Based on its findings and assessment, the pre-election assessment mission concludes that the necessary conditions and environment for the holding of transparent, competitive and credible elections as agreed in the AU principles governing democratic elections have not been satisfied. The mission notes that the existing government security measures put substantial restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly and they do not provide an enabling environment for free participation in the electoral process. (emphasis added)
This conclusion is amply justified by the factual and historical account that the AU offers in the body of report, even if offering what is still an overly generous assessment of the Khartoum regime and its electoral and security machinations.
So what, we must ask, produced this last-minute change of heart on the part of the AU? There are many possible answers, none of them flattering of the integrity of the AU.
The thinking of early March 2015 is reflected in the following “pre-election assessment”: