Girifna Political Activism is a Brave Proposition in Sudan
Political dissent could be a dangerous activity, depending on where you live and how your government treats dissenting voices. In Sudan, reaction to dissent in Darfur by the Sudanese government led to mass displacement of its population into refugee camps in Chad or into displacement camps within Darfur. Reaction to dissent by rebel groups also led to violent attacks, mass killings, and other tactics that were commonplace during the North/South civil war that ended in 2005.
These government tactics also led to the International Criminal Court arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. Charges of genocide are pending review.
A Geoffrey York article published yesterday in The Globe and Mail, introduced me to a dissident group based in Khartoum called Girifna, which according to their website literally means “we are disgusted” and metaphorically, “we have had enough.” They describe their beginning:
In the evening of October 30, 2009 a group of three friends in Khartoum noticed on the eve of registration day that Sudanese citizens had no information about where to go to register and no national campaigning by the government or civil society groups was taking place. This was a problem, because no registration meant no voting. The group was propelled to start a peaceful quest for change based on a campaign that urges citizens to register so that they have a role in ridding the country of the National Congress Party (NCP) that has ruled for 20 years through a military coup. On the following day the group printed informational brochures urging people to register and they received support from many others who helped with the funding and distribution.
Voter education is Sudan is important, particularly since there has not been any multiparty elections in the country since 1986, so much of the population have never had the opportunity to choosing their government representatives.
High illiteracy rates throughout the country—particularly in outlying regions in the South, Darfur and elsewhere—makes voter education necessary to consider the elections free and fair. With government control of most of the media landscape, popular education like handing out anti-establishment voter education pamphlets (see video below) by Girifna activists is indeed an act of bravery.
In fact, I just copied this from the @girifna titter feed: “2 OF our guys were beaten and arrested by the NCP in Ombada Khartoum and now we r in the police station.” Considering the group is only five-and-a-half months old, a test of their bravery may just be getting started… Solidarity!
Maggie Fick wrote an interesting article from Juba, Southern Sudan after meeting with Girifna members.
The voting period that started on Sunday, April 11 will end in the evening of April 15. Results were scheduled to be released by April 18 but the two-day polling extension may push the results announcement back as well.