Sudan president and SPLM chairman resolve census row

April 14, 2008 (ST)

The Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and his First Vice President Salva Kiir agreed to resume the census process next week Al Jazeera television reported on Monday.

The Arabic news channel broadcasting from Qatar said Al-Bashir and Kiir decided in a meeting that the census should proceed all over Sudan including the south starting April 22nd.

However it was not clear when or where the meeting took place. It was widely believed that Kiir was due to meet with Al-Bashir on Monday to settle the dispute triggered by the SPLM’s decision on Saturday to postpone the census in the South until year end.

"It was postponed," South Sudanese Information Minister Gabriel Changson Chang told Reuters from Juba last Saturday. "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.

However Sudan’s former foreign minister and SPLM figure Dr. Lam Akol called on Southerners to take part in the census in a clear departure from the movement’s position.

Earlier today Sudan’s second Vice-President Ali Osman Taha accused some elements in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) of provoking a new political crisis before expressing his confidence that census crisis.

Taha, who was speaking in a press conference held on Sunday evening in Khartoum, said that these elements seek to bring down the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)

The Sudanese official said the crisis would be cleared up through consultation and coordination between the three members of the Sudanese presidency including Al-Bashir, Kiir and Taha.

"The Presidency is able to make a definitive decision as long as the parties have a common will," Taha said.

The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) condemned the decision by the SPLM saying “it is not supported by any justifications or facts whether they be security or political”.

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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