South Sudan delays crunch census: report

JUBA, Sudan
April 12, 2008 (AFP)

Self-governing south Sudan reportedly announced on Saturday that a crunch census scheduled nationwide next week, had been delayed in the south, citing a raft of complaints with the Arab north.

The information minister in the southern government, Gabriel Changson Chang, said the census would instead be conducted "in the course of the year" but declined to specify a date, the UN Mission in Sudan's Radio Miraya reported.

Cash-flow problems and logistic headaches have dogged preparations for the already repeatedly delayed census, a cornerstone of the fragile peace agreement in 2005 that ended two decades of civil war between north and south.

Among the reasons for the latest delay, the southern minister reportedly listed disputes with the north over border demarcation, the north's veto of ethnicity and religion on the census questionnaires, and security concerns.

Chang also said two million southern Sudanese are living in the north and awaiting to be repatriated to the under-developed south, Miraya said.

In the south, there is a pervasive belief the population is far bigger than reflected in previous counts which would have huge implications, particularly for a planned referendum in 2011 in the south on whether to become independent.

Officials in Khartoum, contacted by AFP, were unable to immediately confirm any delay to the scheduled start of the population count on Tuesday.

Any further delay to the census, which will become increasingly difficult to conduct in remote parts of the south as the rainy season sets in, are likely to have a knock-on effect on elections scheduled in Sudan next year.

The census is a prerequisite in terms of easing voter registration. Under the peace deal, its results will also redraw or confirm the ratio of central power-sharing between the north and south.

The Human Rights Watch organisation says that militia attacks in disputed border areas may reflect an attempt in Khartoum to skew census registration.

Sudanese officials have said parts of the vast war-torn Darfur region and the Egyptian-occupied Halayib triangle in the northeast will also be excluded from what is Sudan's fifth census since independence in 1956.


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