Northern Sudan has begun a census of southern Sudanese ahead of the 2011 referendum for independence. The voters’ registration exercise is meant to include the southern Sudanese Diaspora, but the north has chosen to count southern Sudanese in countries where there are reportedly few of them.
Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Sultanate of Oman, Bahrain, the UK, Belgium (for all Western Europe) and USA are on the list of countries released by the National Elections Commission (NEC) of Sudan where Sudanese in Diaspora can register as voters and also participate in the forthcoming presidential election.
However, the South has questioned what it deems deliberate exclusion of the nine states that border Sudan especially Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo where many South Sudanese refugees live. The leaders of South Sudan have threatened to boycott next year’s presidential elections if the North is not fair in its census.
The decision of Northern Sudan to exclude countries where southern Sudanese are populated has been questioned by foreign mediators. Observers say that the action by NEC was a ploy by Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) northern partner National Congress Party of President Omar Al Bashir to rig the elections by isolating the South.
This recent development has worsened the situation in the fragile government of unity which has been battling to remain united since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on January 9, 2005 that brought an end to an 11-year war which established an autonomous south and stipulated the holding of a 2011 referendum to determine the future of the south.
Preparations for the elections and referendum have been delayed by disagreement between the north and south partners on laws governing the two votes, and most recently by suspicion of rigging. Rising violence in the south in recent months has also raised concerns, and experts fear it may further deter the census and voting process.
Photo: EPA/PHILLIP DHILL