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Sudan Conducts Census Tuesday With the South Cautiously Participating

Sudan Tuesday begins a census to prepare the way for the country’s first democratic elections in 23 years. The results will also be used to determine power and wealth sharing, including proceeds from the country’s oil wealth.

The census is part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the Sudan government rebels from the south. But there are concerns the results may not be accurate and thereby leading to new blood bath.

Pagan Amum is secretary general of the former Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and now the minister for cabinet affairs in the Government of National Unity of Sudan. He told VOA Southern Sudan will participate in the census but with reservation.

“The arrangements are ready for the census to be conducted. Of course, you know there has been disagreement between the government of Southern Sudan and the government of National Unity in Khartoum because the National Congress, which is the leading party in the Government, has tried to exclude two very important questions from the questionnaire of the census, the question on religion and the question on ethnicity. This is seen by the SPLM and the government of Southern Sudan as an attempt to skew the religious and ethnicity diversity in Sudan, which is a very dangerous move,” he said.

Amum said the questions on ethnicity and religion were necessary so as to determine how many Christians and Moslems or people of other faith reside in Sudan as well as the numerical strength of each ethnicity.

He said the census is going ahead because Sudan’s president has given assurances to take into consideration Sudan’s diversity.

Amum expressed concern for the millions of Southern Sudanese who are in refugee camps in the north.

“Those who are inside the Sudan will be counted; those who are outside the Sudan will not be counted. And of course the problem is that there will be a lot of confusion because there are many millions of Southern Sudanese who are in the north, and there are fears that they will be counted increasing the numbers in the north and decreasing the numbers in the south. And the government of Southern Sudan wanted the census to take place after the resettlement of the internally displaced people,” Amum said.

He said the census results would be used to determine power and wealth sharing, including proceeds from the country’s oil wealth.

“The census of course will be used to manage the country better, to be used to determine the allocation of power, the allocation of resources in the country,” he said.

In the west of the country Darfur rebels have rejected the holding of the census. Amum said the rejection might have been due to the lack of peace in Darfur.

“The reason is clear there is insecurity in Darfur, and the majority of the people are displaced out of the area. And how do you conduct census in such a situation. Of course you can only do census where there is peace. The second reason is that there are fears that there are people who have been brought in to settle in areas which are not their areas. Of course there have been accusations of ethnic cleansing in Darfur,” Amum said.