Where will you be the night of April 14, 2008?
This question has taken on great significance for millions of Sudanese people. On a recent mission to south Sudan, I became aware of how important it is to ensure that people’s votes will be counted
in the long-awaited Sudanese population census, which is expected to take place April 15 - 30.
When my colleague and I asked why so many people were rushing back to their home areas now after many years in exile during the north-south Sudan war, we were repeatedly told that people want to be back in time to be counted in the census.
When wearing our Refugees International jackets, we were stopped by people asking us when the Sudanese refugees living in other countries are coming home, so that they can be counted too.
So why is this census so important?
Over two decades of a horrific war between north and south Sudan ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. This agreement set up wealth and power-sharing arrangements based on estimates of the populations of north and south Sudan, a national election in 2009 and a referendum on self-determination for the south in 2011. One requirement of the CPA is a population census. The CPA states that once citizens are counted, power-sharing between north and south Sudan will reflect the actual population in these regions. This will provide vital information for the planning of the election.
The northern government in Khartoum -- focused on its own survival and trying to de-rail planning for the elections and referendum – has done all it can to delay the census.
The census was supposed to have been conducted by the end of 2007, but has been postponed multiple times. The Khartoum government has been slow to provide the funds for the census, and they have prolonged disputes over questions to be included.
If the census does go ahead next week, millions of Sudanese will still not be counted. By continuing the violence in Darfur, the northern government has ensured that it will be practically impossible to conduct the census in Darfur. Some Darfuri leaders refuse to take part in a census when over two million Darfuris have been forced from their homes, 250,000 of whom are living in Chad. Many thousands of refugees from the north-south war also still live in exile, yet no arrangements are being made to count Sudanese people currently outside the country.
Huge logistical challenges must be overcome, but the Government of Southern Sudan still says that it is planning to go ahead with the census in the south next week. If the Khartoum government fails to do so in the north, or creates more delays, it will be further evidence of their lack of commitment to the CPA. Despite flaws in the process, the census must move forward in those parts of Sudan where it can be carried out to lay the foundations for 2009 elections. The states which brokered the CPA – particularly the US Government - must not allow CPA milestones like the census to slip by without international attention and condemnation of those who breach the agreement.
Labels: Darfur, south Sudan
August 10, 2011
| Tagged as: South Sudan, Sudan