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Former Sudanese Rebels Reject Census

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) has flatly rejected the results of the recently conducted census ahead of next year's election describing it as false and unwelcome. The nationwide census is seen by many as crucial to prepare Sudan's constituencies for next year's elections.

The former rebels of the SPLM dismissed the census results as gravely wrong, contending that the total for Southerners was too low. The census which was released Thursday began in April 2008, and was reportedly hampered by bad weather, poor mapping, as well as a shortage of questionnaires and insecurity.

Sudan's next general election, the first in 24 years, is scheduled to be held in February next year. Yassir Arman is a leading member of the SPLM. He told VOA that his group would not be bound by the results of the census.

"We had the meeting of the presidency chairman Salva (Kiir), the first vice president presented the position of the SPLM that the SPLM has serious reservations (about the census)," Arman said.

He said the results of the census are not believable.

"Now Southern Sudanese in this census are one fifth of Sudan's population and historically and in different censuses before they were one third of Sudan's population and this is strange," he said.

Arman said there are indications that the number of Southern Sudanese in the capital has been greatly understated in the just released census.

"Secondly, the numbers have been doubled or even more… in the capital Khartoum who are known to be more than two million (people) are only three hundred and fifty thousand (in the new census)," Arman said.

He accused the powers that be of orchestrating what he claims is a blatant attempt to reduce the total number of southern Sudanese in the latest census ahead of next year's election.

"It is a political design; it is connected with the elections, and the SPLM position is very clear that this census is not useful to be used for the elections or for the power sharing and wealth sharing," he said.

Arman denied the former rebels are against next year's election.

"No it is not the SPLM's position. The SPLM position is very straight forward. We need elections; we need free and fair election in this time," Arman said.

He said there is need for the process to be overhauled before next year's elections.

"Before the elections should be new registration for the purpose of the elections. And then you draw the data of the elections from this voter registration not from the census," he said.

Arman said the objective of the census has been undermined with what he described as flaws in the entire process.

"Well, the census is supposed to draw the map of the human resources and sustainable development for Sudan, but unfortunately we don't think it is going to be useful for these purposes," Arman said.

He said there was need for a fresh start ahead of the elections next year.

"We want two things to be done, one there should be a new voter registration, which could be done transparently and systematically for the data of the elections," he said.

Arman said the former rebels are demanding that the census not be used as part of the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which effectively ended the war between the north and south.

"The other thing is that this census should not be used… for power sharing in the country," Arman said.

The former rebels are accusing northern politicians of manipulating the figures and under-counting the number of southerners both in the south and in the capital, Khartoum.

The census results, released Thursday put Sudan's total population at 39.15 million, with 30.89 million or 79 percent living in the mainly Muslim north, and 8.26 million or 21 per cent living in the predominantly Christian and traditional south.

The census figures are expected to define the constituencies for next year's election before the referendum on southern independence scheduled for 2011.