Articles and Analysies
Who to blame for dissatisfactory result of 2008 Census in Southern Sudan: SPLM or NCP? BY: James Monyluak Majok Thon, CANADA
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Oct 12, 2009 - 8:39:42 AM

Who to blame for dissatisfactory result of 2008 Census in Southern Sudan : SPLM or NCP?

BY: James Monyluak Majok Thon, CANADA


The 2005 peace agreement concluded between the SPLM and the NCP, on behalf of the North and the South, set out some provisions to be implemented during six-year interim period and the National Census was one and crucial elements of the provisions among others to be conducted. It is clearly stated in the agreement and in the Interim Constitution of Sudan that the 5th census will be conducted in the 4th year of the interim period so that allocation of resources, powering sharing, and national social planning are implemented based on the outcome of the census.

It then provided hope for Sudanese people to build a new Sudan of equality, opportunities, justice, transparency, accountability, and progress with a fair share in power, resources, services and development. To achieve these goals, a population census with high accuracy and a full coverage was necessarily needed although it did not happen. The people of Sudan had hoped that all citizens would be required to identify their ethnic backgrounds for sociological and public policy reasons. However, the intentional omission of religion and ethnicity from the questionnaires of the census forms by NCP, and the subsequent defeat of the SPLM on the issue, was a clear indication that the NCP was going to manipulate the outcome of the census.

The SPLM, as a ruling party in the South and a partner in the CPA implementation, should have fought so hard for these matters (religion and ethnicity) not to be excluded or omitted on the census forms since census is a complete detail account of the population within the country. In other words, census is a key and central mechanism to identify and categorize people according to their religion, cultural, and other social affiliations. This was also meant to identify other potential areas of conditions that need immediate attention from federal, state, and local governments.

Marginalized Sudanese and the international community were curious to know after the census result of who form the majority, the Africans or Arabs, Christians or Muslims or African traditional believers in real numbers because religion and ethnic differences were the main causes of the Second Sudanese Civil War in 1983. This (census) was the only way to prove those who argue that Muslims are the majority in Sudan and Sudan is an Arab country wrong.

The 5th population census was supposed to be one of the most important censuses in the history of Sudan since the previous censuses were not inclusive. It was hoped that the 5th National Census would have been inclusive and transparent. The processes leading up to the exercise of the census somehow pre-determined the outcome of the census. The funding issue, the intensive training of enumerators, the unacceptable number of enumerators trained instead of training more enumerators, the overall logistic issue (census materials and transportation), and overall coordination and preparation were very poor in the first place before the exercise itself. The following is an overall analysis of the issues involved in the census and preparation leading up to the exercise.

Importance of the census

The 2005 peace agreement concluded between the SPLM and the NCP, on behalf of the North and the South, set out some provisions to be implemented during six-year interim period and the National Census was one and crucial elements of the provisions among others to be conducted. The census is not, however, an end in itself! Rather the results are essential tools for effective policy, planning and decision making purposes. This enables a nation or policy makers to track developments over a long period with considerable accuracy. The census is therefore a fundamental part of the national heritage and collective knowledge.

At national level current population statistics are essential for planning the provision of health care, education, employment and other infrastructures, etc. Regional figures are critical for determining regional policy and for the operation of regional authorities (e.g. Health Boards).

The greatest strength of the census is the provision of detailed population figures at local levels. These help to identify likely demand for schools and hospitals, areas of relatively high marginalized or ignored that need immediate attention, the best location for new infrastructures, etc. Constituency reviews normally take place once the definitive results of the census have been published.

The census is also the only means of accurately measuring the exact extent of migration. By comparing the results of successive censuses, and taking account of the number of births and deaths that have occurred over the same period, we get an accurate measure of net migration (the difference between inward and outward migration). The importance of migration as a component of population change is one of the reasons why censuses are carried out after certain period in democratic countries.

These are some of the examples of importance of the census and this was the overall objective of 2008 5th census in Sudan . It was meant to figure out the populations and set out the allocation of resources, power sharing, and social planning during the interim period and prerequisite for upcoming general elections in 2010 and that of the referendum.

Preparations leading up to the exercise (SPLM/GOSS role)

The general understating and expectations of Southern Sudanese was this simply: GOSS should have delivered basic services to southern Sudanese (build some boreholes, build basic medical clinics, build primary schools, and provide at least basic security) in all 78 counties and repatriate or bring back all Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs) and southern Sudanese refugees from neighbouring countries back to Southern Sudan and move on with the exercise. These were basic expectations by the Southern Sudanese and other parts of the country from their state and local governments.

The questions ask by Southern Sudanese are: 1) did SPLM led government deliver these basic services at least in all 78 counties in southern Sudan in the first place?; 2) did GOSS with other concerned authorities worked tirelessly to bring   back IDPS and refugees back to Southern Sudan?; 3) did GOSS have everything required in place before moving on with the exercise?; and 4) if GOSS had everything in place, why cover some areas and leave some areas uncovered in Southern Sudan during the exercise of the census and why we had dissatisfactory result?   

 Some quarters in the South would argue that there were inadequate resources to deliver basic services, repatriate IDPS and Refugees, and for the conduction of the census. This has been their position and will remain to be their position instead of accepting their complete failure based on the poor preparations and complete failure of getting it done as it was expected by marginalized Sudanese and international community and constitutionally required.

NCP role

The NCP as a ruling party in the GONU has a major role in the implementation of the CPA. It has the power and the resources to help implement the provisions of the peace agreement and pave the way forward for democratization of the country. The Sudanese people could and will count on its leadership, but it has done so far very little or instead been selective in implementing what favour their conditions.

When it comes to what favour southerners, it definitely drags its feet and opts for what hinders the CPA implementation. Sometimes, it conditions the SPLM on certain provisions to delay such move until it finds different avenues which favour its interests. Khartoum successive regimes have a history of creating confusion or chaotic situations or delaying tactics when Southerners are in a position to attain their objectives. This happened in 1980s when Southerners were succeeding in conducting their own business with that little Juba government with limited resources it had compare to what Juba has now. They redivided the South and created regional governments which eventually increased differences among Southerners until Jaafar Nimeiri abrogated the Addis Ababa agreement.

On November 26th 2006 , a deadly fighting erupted when the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) allied militia group led by Gatwech Chan (known as Gabriel Tanginya) opened fire at the SPLA positions. In that fighting, over 150 people died, several others injured and incalculable property lost. As a result of this incident, the President of the Government of Southern Sudan , 1st Lt. General Salva Kiir Mayardit, issued an arrest warrant against Gabriel Tanginya. All the law enforcement agencies and the SPLA were ordered to execute the warrant.

As the government of Southern Sudan closed on him, Major Gen. Gabriel Tang fled to Khartoum , so he became a wanted man by the GoSS. When the Government of Southern Sudan demanded for his return to the South in order for him to face justice, SAF refused to hand him over and instead booked him as a Major-General in their payroll. Subsequently, his forces joined SAF and were deployed as JIU component in Malakal. These forces, albeit absorbed by SAF, maintained strong allegiance to Gabriel Tang as evidenced in the 2009 skirmishes that ensued after his reappearance in Malakal. This led returnees to flee Malakal and return to either Northern Sudan or neighboring countries where they were residing for last 21 years.

In late 2006 to early 2007, a deadly war was waged between Messirya backed by SAF and SPLA in Northern Bhar El Ghazall. Many people were killed and displaced by the war.

In February 2008, Messirya/Baggara backed by SAF attacked civilians in Karsan (native name Mijak-yiith)   in Western Upper Nile State or Unity State killing a number of civilians and eventually to total evacuation of the civilians out of the town when Governor Taban Deng Gai had inked unpopular deal with Governor of Southern Kordofan .

In May 2008, deadly war erupted in Abyei between SPLA forces and SAF. In that fighting a lot of people were killed and incalculable property lost. This led Abyei residents to escape the war and become displaced in their own land and around neighboring counties. Some people went back to Khartoum and prevented others not to come to Abyei from Khartoum as part of planned repatriation strategies by GOSS and Abyei administration.   

On February 23rd2009, Gabriel Tang made a surprise appearance in Malakal. He was received by SAF Military Intelligence personnel and accommodated near the airport by his former militias who are deployed as JIU members by SAF. When the state authorities in Upper Nile State became aware of his presence, they sent emissaries to persuade him to leave Malakal since he is a wanted criminal. He flatly refused saying that he would leave Malakal only if he is “ordered by President Al Bashir.” The UNMIS was called in and they, too, tried to convince Gabriel Tang to spend the night at their camp so that he would be airlifted to Khartoum the following morning. Once again, the UNMIS’ intervention was futile. This later resulted into a fight and innocent lives were lost. Again, civilians had to escape the incident for their safety and that mean going back to Ethiopian refugee camps and Khartoum as last resort.

All these plus the ongoing violence in Jonglei, Upper Nile State, and other states, the Kennana conference by that very sell-out groups, and the creation of SPLM-DC are part of the strategies the successive regimes including NCP in Khartoum have been using to derail and sabotage the unity of Southern Sudanese whenever the South is about to make headway.

In concluding this section, many would argue that NCP could be partly blamed for the dissatisfactory result of 2008 census in the South simply because it had indefinitely prevented many civilians not to participate in the census exercise given the above mentioned examples or reasons or has manipulated the census results.

Enumerators’ role

First of all, GOSS was expected to train more enumerators in all counties regardless of limited resources so that they cover more places in remote areas in the countryside. They should not have been trained within two weeks prior to the start day. They should have been taught not only to register people names, but be taught with certain techniques of how to approach the villagers in the countryside and for the first time participants in explaining the purpose of such exercise so that villagers and other first time participants cooperate fully without hesitation and reservations.

Beside that, the Traditional authorities (chiefs, clans’ elders, and other important bodies) could have played crucial role had they been approached or involved in the preparations and during the exercise because they are the focal points in their respective areas throughout the region. Many would argue that the South fail to achieve a good result under SPLM led government due to poor preparations.

2008 Census was supposed to take place on the same day and   everybody who was in the country was supposed to be included in a census form, including for example people staying with friends or relatives, staying in a hotel, hospital, guesthouse or on board a vessel.

The forms were supposed to be delivered during the month prior to census day and be collected in the month following the census. The forms were supposed to be delivered and collected by census enumerators who were employed by the Central Statistics Office to carry out the census. Enumerators were supposed to work together with local authorities in counties, payams, and Bomas and be assisted with any difficulties people had in completing the census form.

Publication of Results:

The preliminary results of the 2008 Census should have been published within reasonable time, perhaps within three months of census day. The definitive population results, based on the scanned census forms, should have been released between May 2008 and February 2009. The full range of census results should have been also released in a series of subject-matter volumes with a simultaneous publication on the CSO website so that ordinary Sudanese can access the breakdown of the population as part of transparency and accountability of their government.

Equally, the publication should not have been done by Central Statistics Office with the influence of one political party. The Central Statistics Bureau ought not to be bias; it should stick to its principles of transparency and accountability and most importantly, remain neutral as required by the law.

The South was expected to have published its own results with detailed categories of population based on the states, counties, and bomas as evidence before the national publication. This did not happen and this is why the NCP has manipulated the results.

Access to record

The SPLM led government in the South has a right to access the record because it cannot implement important national policies without knowing the constituents of the region. This is how it works in democratically elected governments and this is how it should work in Sudan during the CPA era. The SPLM/GOSS should not to be soft on this issue.

At -A- Glance

The SPLM has rejected the outcome of the census;

It has opted to use 1956 census as a last resort;

The SPLM is insisting not to participate in upcoming 2010 general elections before resolving the issue first;

The NCP is threatening to reduce the share of the South in oil revenue;

The National Electoral Commission is proposing to proportionally allocate seats in the GONU based on new constituencies from current 28% of national share and that also means reducing ministerial posts previously allocated to SPLM party; and finally,

All these and much more have caused a political limbo in the South and especially within the SPLM party whether or not the South under the SPLM leadership should participate in the 2010 upcoming election.  


The 2005 peace agreement between SPLM and NCP parties or between South and North set out some provisions to be implemented during the six year interim period and the census was one of the crucial elements of the provisions among others to be conducted. The census was conducted in 2008 and the result was rejected by the ruling party in the South. The SPLM argues that there were discrepancies and manipulation made by the NCP in the process of the publication and the number given to Southern Sudan falls short of what was expected by Southerners.

Some argue that the South under the SPLM leadership made a late and poor preparation that led to less coverage which means more people were not included in the exercise and that is why the South has 8.2 million people rather than 10 million plus.

On the other hand, NCP has been blamed that it has manipulated the number of Southern population and also used other tactics to prevent Southerners in participating in the exercise and that is why the South has been allocated an unacceptable number of 8.2 million instead of more than 10 million plus.

Based on these two perspectives, the issue has become a blaming game and Southerners become confused of who to blame for the dissatisfactory result of 2008 5th census in Sudan , especially in South Sudan .

However, it is up to Southerners to decide who is solemnly responsible for failing Southern Sudanese from getting a reasonable number out of this census that would determine everything in the South and Sudan in general.


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