South Sudan refuses northern army vote escort

Tue Mar 23, 2010 9:14am GMT

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - South Sudan's dominant party on Tuesday accused the north of trying to skew April's national elections by asking the northern army to transport ballot papers to the semi-autonomous south.

April's multi-party presidential and legislative elections are Sudan's first such polls in 24 years. But accusations of fraud are already mounting and on Monday President Omar Hassan al-Bashir threatened to expel international electoral monitors.

The United Nations was due to transport the ballots by helicopter around the war-ravaged south but Bashir's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has delayed the pilots' visas, a U.N. source and opposition party officials said.

"They (the NCP) are sabotaging the coming of the U.N. pilots. They want to control the whole election process," said Yasir Arman, the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement's candidate for the national presidency.

The SPLM, a former rebel group, controls most of the south's semi-autonomous government.

He said Bashir's deputy, Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, had asked SPLM chief and south Sudan President Salva Kiir to allow the army to transport the ballots by air to and around the south, which has few roads.

"Salva declined to accept that and then Abel Alier (head of the National Elections Commission) wrote a letter with the same request, which shows the coordination between the NEC and the NCP," Arman added.

Both north and south have separate armies and, after more than two decades of civil war, there is little trust between the partners in the 2005 accord that ended the conflict and paved the way for the elections.

The letter is the latest in a string of opposition accusations that the NEC is biased towards Bashir's party. They were also angered when the NEC awarded a contract to print the presidential and governors' ballot papers to a Sudanese government company.   Continued...

<p>Sudan's Vice President Salva Kiir addresses supporters during the launch of his campaign for the forthcoming elections in south Sudan's capital Juba February 24, 2010. REUTERS/Skye Wheeler</p>
Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.