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 southern Sudanese.
The list of countries released by the National Elections Commission (NEC) of Sudan where Sudanese in the Diaspora can register as voters and also participate in the forthcoming presidential election includes Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Sultanate of Oman, Bahrain, the UK, Belgium (for all Western Europe) and USA.
Nonetheless, 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.
John Duku, the Head of Mission at the GoSS liaison office in Nairobi also questioned the intentions of the north following their antics in the census.
“We were shocked when we saw the list and the question we are asking is why did NEC exclude the five countries. Where are the sub-Saharan African states? If the elections are for the North alone then we have no problem but if the South is going to take part then these countries (Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Congo-Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo) must be included,” asked Mr Duku.
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.
The leader of southern Sudan Salva Kiir called on his people to vote for secession in an upcoming referendum if they do not want to end up as second-class citizens, as voter registration began Sunday November 1, for elections across the country.
“When you reach your ballot boxes the choice is yours: you want to vote for unity so that you become a second class in your own country that is your choice. If you want to vote for independence so that you are a free person in your independent state, that will be your own choice and we will respect the choice of the people,” Kiir was quoted by reporters, as he spoke to worshipers on Saturday at the cathedral in the southern capital of Juba.
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.