April 12, 2008 (Sudan Tribune)
Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) condemned the decision by Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) to suspend elections in the South.
The NCP issued a statement during a late night meeting headed by Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir to discuss the SPLM’s move of pulling from the census process which was to start next Tuesday.
“The decision by the SPLM is not supported by any justifications or facts whether they be security or political” said Kamal Obeid the Information Secretariat official at the NCP.
“All the reasons mentioned in the SPLM’s statement were discussed in previous meetings but the option of delaying census was never discussed” he added.
The former Southern rebels made a surprise decision today to exclude the South from the census process until the end of the year.
"It was postponed," South Sudanese Information Minister Gabriel Changson Chang told Reuters from Juba. "There is a sizeable number of southern Sudanese in northern Sudan and if they are not transported to the south before the census it will affect the wealth sharing."
Questions on ethnicity and religion were not included in the census questionnaire, contrary to the southern government’s wishes Chang said.
The SPLM also said that border demarcation process is not complete which prevents the south from adding people which will impact power sharing formula. Moreover the southern group said the war in Darfur will impede the conduct of census and as such will only be partial.
But the head of the Central Bureau of Statistics Yasin al-Hajj Abdine said in statement to Sudan news agency (SUNA) that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) does not stipulate the return of displaced people for census to take place.
He told SUNA that the SPLM agreed to the census questionnaire which excluded questions on ethnicity and religion, through a letter by South Sudan’s Minister for Presidential Affairs Luka Biong dated November 5, 2007.
Abdine also said that it was “impossible” for all displaced Southerners to return before the end of the year and to include them in the census because of the rainy season. He stressed that the census will not change anything with regards to the border issue or confers right on any side.
The NCP said in the statement they “regret the decision especially when money from Sudanese people money has been spent on a constitutional issue agreed upon by all sides”.
“All reports from the South confirmed that preparations for census were complete. This is not a surprising decision if you look at the prior positions by the SPLM towards the CPA” Obeid said.
The NCP official called on SPLM to “reverse its decision” before adding that they “see no reason for the census delay and hope that this cause elections to be held on time”.
The SPLM signed a peace deal in January 2005 with the government of the National Congress Party in January 2005 ending two decades of civil war in Southern Sudan. The peace deal made the SPLM, the ruling party in the south and the NCP the ruling party in the north.
In 2011, southerners will be asked to vote in a referendum on whether they want to be independent or remain part of Sudan. A census is supposed to prelude the elections but has stalled because of cash shortage and disagreement over the process.
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