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SUDAN-ELECTIONS Feb-24-2010 (420 words) xxxi

Sudan archbishop says April election can begin Sudan's transformation

By Francis Njuguna
Catholic News Service

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- With the approach of Sudan's first multiparty elections in 24 years, Archbishop Paolino Lukudu Loro of Juba, Sudan, appealed to voters to learn as much as possible about the candidates before casting their votes.

In a Feb. 21 pastoral letter, Archbishop Loro said the April 11 elections for the nation's president and local officials can mark the beginning of Sudan's political transformation.

"The church has the moral obligation to guide this important process," the archbishop wrote in the letter, titled "The Genuine Voice of the People Is the Voice of God."

The campaign ends April 9, five days after Easter, and Archbishop Loro said Sudanese can take the opportunity during Lent to restore their relationship with God while hearing from candidates about their goals for the future of the country.

"God wants us to repent from the many sins we have committed against him and ourselves, especially in southern Sudan: tribes against tribes, killings, abductions, robbery, corruption and so forth," he said. "We must atone for these sins by prayers and good deeds."

Archbishop Loro acknowledged that for 60 percent of the population in southern Sudan, where his archdiocese is located, the prospect of a voting will be a new experience, and he called for widespread participation in balloting. He expressed hope that the peace that was maintained during voter registration will carry through the election.

"I strongly urge those who have registered and are eligible voters to make sure they vote, because your vote is your voice and your choice," he said. "The genuine voice of the people is the voice of God. It is as well your contribution to the common good of the people of this country."

He cautioned voters to refuse bribes from candidates and urged candidates to bypass opportunities to "manipulate, deceive, misguide and confuse voters." He also encouraged candidates to avoid "violent and unacceptable" language in their campaigns.

"I want to emphasize the importance of the virtues of honesty and integrity in the political process," he wrote. "Nobody should accept money in order to create insecurity during the campaign and the elections."

The archbishop said the country will benefit if voters elect candidates who are committed to implementing "to the letter" the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government and rebel forces in the South.

"It took the Sudanese people more than two decades to achieve peace. Voting for wrong people, especially at this crucial time in the history of our country, is to undermine the price paid for the peace," he said.

END


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