Darfur referendum commission chief Omar Ali Jamaa, right, holds a press conference on April 23, 2016, in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. (AFP Photo)
The Darfur region in western Sudan
has voted in a referendum against reunification of its five states into one entity.
The organizers of the referendum, which was held from April 11 to 13, said Saturday that almost 98 percent of the voters chose to keep the present multi-state administrative system in place.
Referendum commission chief Omar Ali Jamaa said “97.72 percent voted for five states.”
The commission chief added that out of 3.21 million eligible voters, 3.08 million voters participated in the referendum.
The referendum had been boycotted by Darfur’s main ethnic minority insurgent groups striving for greater autonomy and opposed to the central government in Khartoum.
The insurgents have been engaged an armed rebellion against the government since 2003. The rebel groups accuse the government of discrimination toward non-Arabs.
Opposition groups had claimed the war in Darfur did not allow a fair vote, and the unification election was rigged to create a “divide-and-rule” multi-state system favoring the central government.
President Omar al-Bashir, however, assured that the situation in Darfur was stable enough to conduct the referendum.
“It is the people of Darfur who choose whether they want states or one region and we are holding this referendum so that no one else can come and say we want this or that,” Bashir announced prior to the vote.
The Darfur Regional Authority is divided into five federal states: Central Darfur, East Darfur, North Darfur, South Darfur and West Darfur.
Voters are seen at a polling station in El-Fasher, in North Darfur on April 11, 2016, during a referendum on whether to keep its five states or unite them into a single region. (AFP Photo)
Darfur had been a united region ever since it became part of Sudan in 1916. In 1994, it was divided into three states. Two more states were added in 2012.
The ruling party of Sudan, the National Congress Party, supports a multi-state authority in the region, which it says would better serve the needs of the ethnically-divided peoples of the region.