Discontent over Sudan census

2009-05-21 19:23

Khartoum - Sudan announced the results on Thursday of a nationwide census seen as crucial to prepare constitencies for elections next year, but which former southern rebels said they would reject.

The census showed Sudan to have a total population of 39 154 490, with 8 260 490 or 21% living in the south, Central Bureau of Statistics head Yassin al-Hajj Abdeen told reporters. It also counted 520 000 southern Sudanese living in the north. Southerners say they account for one third of the total population.

The census is a milestone in the peace deal that ended Sudan's decades-long civil war and is seen as vital to prepare constituencies for elections in 2010 and determine wealth and power-sharing between north and south.

Won't be bound by numbers

The Southern People's Liberation Movement, which signed the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement with Khartoum, said on Tuesday that it would not be bound by the numbers.

"The results of this census are not acceptable to us and are rejected," said First Vice President Salva Kiir, who is also head of the south Sudan semi-autonomous government, after results were leaked.

The count took place in April 2008, but was hampered by bad weather, poor mapping, a shortage of questionnaires and insecurity.

Sudan's next general election, the first in 24 years, is scheduled to take place in February 2010.

South Sudanese are then due to vote in a 2011 referendum on whether they want to break away from the north.