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Postponing Sudan Census: Unjustified GoSS’s rush hour By James Okuk
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Apr 15, 2008 - 7:55:23 AM

Postponing Sudan Census: Unjustified GoSS’s rush hour

By James Okuk

April 14, 2008 — The GoSS’s attempt to postpone the Sudan Fifth Population Census is not a good idea because it has been delivered at the rush hour. The reasons which were presented by GoSS’s spokesperson are not satisfactory scientifically though they may be imaginatively. Census is supposed to be prima facie scientific exercise more than a political debate. Though allowing the census to be carried on from 22nd to early next May, 2008 will have some undesirable consequences for Southern Sudan, stopping it at a short notice after the elaborate preparations which took place is more problematic.

The de facto headcount is the right method because it is less contentious and more direct forward: You are counted where you are settled and live most of your daily life, consume goods and enjoy services here and now. The de jure method is not a right one and it is almost being abandoned in all the countries over the world: You are counted to belong elsewhere other than the current actual place of your daily living and consumptions because simply your roots identity lie somewhere else (for example, a Nuer with marks on forehead who lives in Khartoum but whose ancestors are buried in Bentiu). The de jure method can create unfairness and insincerity in distribution of services and sharing of power in the actual place of living. That is, your head will be counted elsewhere to increase the heads there while your body will squeeze the heads of those who are actually counted where you presently living.

It is wise to choose a lesser evil by allowing the Census to take place this month as it has been prepared by its experts and technicians. Postponement might activate the devils which are hidden in the details of the implementation of the CPA, and this might create new complications in the rest of articles that are waiting actions. Thanks to SPLM leadership for rejecting the GoSS’s position and allowing the Census to take place as planned. SPLM is the watchdog of the CPA and so it should not be confused by some of the Southern political parties who were opposed to the idea of conducting census in the middle of the interim period during the Naivasha’s negotiations in 2004. SPLM should not also be confused by the Durfur’s Liberation Movements who are opposed to current Census. The Fourth Population Census took place in 1992 when SPLM was opposed to it; yet it has been acknowledged in the CPA and the Interim National Constitution by calling this census the Fifth one. So let the SPLM leave the Durfurian rebels to bark alone against the census while the elephant continues moving.

It is true that the South-North borders have not been demarcated but it is not false that the current territory of Southern Sudan is based on certain assumptions of 1/1/1956. So there is no need to make a problematic political issue out of this understood case of South-North border. The rainy season is a natural factor that cannot be blamed on any human being for failing to do any ABC. March, April and May is the real dry season in Southern Sudan where seasonal roads become passable. December is never a dry season though it is the month where rain totally stops in Southern Sudan . Even without rain, many swampy areas remain impassable in Southern Sudan between Decembers to February. So again calling for the postponement of election to December is irrelevant and unrealistic for the rainy-season theory.

The CPA did not say that all southerners who are displaced to the North should be repatriated out of their will. That is where the rationale of voluntary return came about. After all, the IDPs were not repatriated to Northern Sudan by force and convoys during the war time. Each one or each family of the IDPs went to the North and settled there on a private cost without government penny used on them. The Census is not designed for counting the IDPs only nor will it be mentioned in the census records that such and such were IDPS. The Census is aimed at counting every citizen regardless of his status (whether IDP or else). So to argue that the IDPs must be repatriated conditionally by the government for the Fifth Census to take place is a kind of witch-hunting and trouble-making mechanism from some unhelpful politicians of Southern Sudan . This call for the postponement is being unfair to those who are not IDPs or refugees but are ready to be counted any time. Those politicians have never even taken their time in the past three years of the CPA life to go around places where southerners live in Northern Sudan in order to mobilize them for return to South before the current Census take place. What I understand from this call for fiasco is that these politicians are contented with the current free-of-sweat power sharing they are enjoying by the virtue of the CPA. They panic of any change to this enjoyment and also attempt to create the same fear within the SPLM.

The question of ethnicity and religion, which has been used by those panicking and mess-creating politicians, is somehow contradictory to the spirit of the CPA. The CPA calls for separation of the religion from the state and also impartiality in regard to ethnicity. Where were the complaints of these unhelpful politicians in the past three years of the CPA era if they are genuine about their stand on the inclusion of ethnicity and religion in the Sudan government affairs? Why they were not bothered to define ‘who is a southerner’ and ‘who are the people of Southern Sudan ’ for those past years so that it would have been included in the constitution? Which nation on earth was built successfully on the basis of ethnicity (tribe)? Why do they have to wait until rush hour to make their position if they are really concerned for the good of Southern Sudan ? I tend to be convinced that even the possible independent Southern Sudan alone (without its attachment to Northern Sudan ) cannot succeed if it builds itself on ethnicity.

The Census is not a prisoner of the referendum though it can foretell the estimated number of the people who are supposedly eligible to vote. There is an annual percentage of growth rates left open in the census (for example 2% or etc). This is to acknowledge the new people who are born and the old ones who die in the life process, and also the new comers from abroad. So if you are counted to be eight million in 2008 you would be considered to have increased approximately to nine millions or little more in 2011. Also those who will vote in the referendum are not all those who are counted in the Census (like the children). Some of the youth who were counted to be less than eighteen years old during the Census will obviously go above that age at referendum time and thus increase the number of those who are eligible for the plebiscite. In this case it is a fallacy to connect the censuses directly with the referendum for self-determination by the people of Southern Sudan . Censuses take place in many countries that do not conduct referenda.

Therefore, the GoSS and the politicians who are opposed to the census for the sake of the possible future referendum are just wasting time in scoring offside goals here.

Let the current census go ahead because it is possible that other strategies can be designed for referendum case in the referendum law that is going to be adopted in near future as required by the CPA. There is a chance for registering new arrivals, de-registering the departures and considering the youth who have step into the eligible voting age. So let the technicians of Census do their job without political bickering.

*James Okuk is a PhD student in the University of Nairobi in the field of political philosophy. He can be reached at: [email protected]




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