By The Genocide Report
 
A three-day referendum for Darfur began on Monday, April 11, 2016 in which a vote will determine whether the region will keep its five states or reunite as one entity with a permanent, semi-autonomous administration. 
 
The vote will take place across North Darfur, South Darfur, East Darfur, West Darfur and Central Darfur. According to the Darfur Referendum Commission, there are more than 3.5 million Darfuri people registered for the referendum. Although the United States has voiced concerns that the referendum could undermine the peace process, the Sudanese government says the vote will continue.
 
Of great concern to the credibility of the referendum are the three million internally displaced persons as a result of conflict in Darfur. As many as 300,000 people have lost their lives due to the conflict. The US State Department said “insecurity in Darfur and inadequate registration of Darfuris residing in internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps prohibit sufficient participation”.
 
However, Ahmed Bilal, Sudan Information Minster said the referendum is an opportunity for President Omar al-Bashir to fulfill the commitment to the Doha peace agreement. The Doha agreement included a permanent cease-fire and cessation of all hostilities; civil society protection of human rights and freedom; power sharing and administrative status for Darfur and sharing of wealth. Under the Doha agreement permanent administrative status for Darfur is decided by referendum.
 
In a statement criticizing conditions in Darfur, the U.S. State Department said “lasting peace in Sudan will only be attained through a political process that addresses the underlying causes of the Darfur conflict, secures a lasting cessation of hostilities, and creates the space for meaningful participation of Darfuri groups and all Sudanese in an inclusive and genuine national dialogue”.
 
Featured Image: South Sudanese internally displaced persons perform a traditional dance as Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir addresses a crowd during a campaign rally in East Darfur, April 5, 2016. Photo: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah - Reuters