Sunday, January 16, 2022

Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

2008 Census: Will I be counted a Southerner?

By James Okuk

February 14, 2008 — The above title should be the worrying question for every Southern Sudanese who is not right now dwelling in the territory of Southern Sudan (in other part of the Sudan or in other countries in the world) but would want to see the South represented well in the coming population census from April 15, 2008. Unfortunately enough, the importance of population census and the need for the presence of all the Southerners on their own soil by that time was mentioned (except by default in reference to Abyei’s problem) in the address of H.E. Salva Kiir during the celebration of the 3rd CPA anniversary in Wau town. These is what he said: “Any further delay in the implementation of Abyei Protocol will make our partnership vulnerable to further disagreement over population census … Besides the pending problem of Abyei Protocol, I do clearly see some critical areas that may create future conflict in the process of CPA implementation. These issues include possible disagreement on the results of … the population census.” I do not understand how this oversight occurred, but it might suggest that out GoSS president does not care much whether the people of southern Sudan are counted to belong to the South in the mid of the coming April. He seems to be pessimistic about the fairness of that census.

During the CPA negotiations, the population of Southern Sudan was estimated to be 12 million out of 36 million people of the whole Sudan (i.e., 24 millions are northerners). It was on the basis of that one-third approximation that power and wealth sharing in Naivasha was negotiated. For this estimate to be proved right or wrong in the coming census, it depends on the commitment of all Southerners to go to their beloved motherland to be counted there. The population census commission is not going to count the Sudanese who will not be present in the Sudan thy then. Not only that but it will not also count Southern Sudanese as belonging to the South who will be in other parts of the Sudan by that time. Many Southerners are still in the territory of Northern Sudan, and thus, if April 15, 2008 finds them there, then they will be a good addition to population of Northern Sudan and to the areas they will be found in over there – an addition that will increase power and wealth sharing for Northern Sudan from the present share in the CPA. Oppositely, there are no many Northerners in Southern Sudan and thus the South will not gain additional profit from outsiders to justify its share in the national cake and Southern rights – a subtraction that might reduce the present share of the South in the CPA.

Therefore, the right time has come to test the patriotism of any person who thinks that he is a Southerner, especially those who are in Diaspora and have been ‘voiceful’ about what is going on in Southern Sudan. Will their conception and perception be proved right in the coming statistics and registry of the legal people of the Sudan, particularly the Southern Sudanese? Only sixty days are left for them to come home to be counted. Their failure to come will mean retardation in wealth and power sharing for Southern Sudan in the remaining three years of the interim period. It will mean more loss to the questionable revenue of 50% oil share, reduction to the current percentages of constituencies of 38% power sharing for Southern Sudan, and reduction in the supposed 30% of qualified southerners who are supposed to get employed in the National Civil Service of the Sudan by the fifth-year of the CPA life.

Headcounts in the population census was not desired by many tribes of Southern Sudan in some years back due to the heavy taxes which were attached to them thereafter, but without a fair return of government services to the tax-payers. Also many tribes of Southern Sudan had a belief that it was an invitation of bad luck (even death disaster) to the family and the clan to count its members exactly, especially the children. Thus many men hid themselves and many children were hidden to be counted. This led to inaccurate results of the right number of the population of Southern Sudan in the Sudan population census registry. However, the time and the mentality of the people Southern Sudan has greatly changed, especially after the lessons they learn from the long civil war. At the present time, eyes of many Southerners have got widely opened to understand so many things around them; the thing for and things against them.

According to the World Bank demographic findings, the key determinants of population size and structure are fertility, mortality, and migration. Southern Sudan has had adverse effects from the last two determinants – many people died and other so many migrated elsewhere during the time of war. The coming population census will statistics for the existing human persons in a particular administrative territory in the Sudan. Statistics are a public good. Once they have been produced, they can be used for many purposes. The public statistics can also make private markets more efficient in their direction and approach. Statistics has been said to be the eyes of the policy-makers. They are also the eyes of citizens to see development in action. Statistics make the detailed analysis of complex social and economic problems possible, helping policy-makers to choose the best interventions and then to monitor the results. Through population statistics in the Sudan, transformative leaders can identify places of great need, set gaols for improvement, and measure success or take stock of failures. Statistics, therefore, are an important means of enforcing accountability on governments, business, and other actors.

To be useful, statistics must be reliable and genuine because unreliable statistics can lead to bad and wrong decisions with poor outcomes. Good quality statistics, produced by professionals using sound methods and reliable data, free from political interference, provide information to citizens about the successes and failures of public policy. Reliable statistics are needed to monitor progress and encourage greater effort. They are intended to draw public attention to the need for faster progress and firm commitments to achieving fair development results. Good statistics on the headcounts in the Sudan, particularly in Southern Sudan will surely enhance justification for the fair distribution and allocation of goods and service between the South and the North before they divorce into two separate good neighbouring states after the referendum in 2011. Also the same statistics will be helpful to distribute and allocate proportionally the powers and resources amongst the ten states of southern Sudan and their counties. Therefore, a sustained effort must be exerted in the Sudan and its Southern autonomous part to put statistical capacity at the centre of development policy, to increase investment in data collection, dissemination, and technical capacity, and to improve use of existing datasets.

The use of statistics for improving the lives of people is not new. Over a century ago, Charles Booth produced detailed maps illustrating wellbeing and social class differences in London, using data gathered over a period of 20 years. These maps informed a famous policy debate which contributed to the development of radically new programmes aimed at the alleviation of poverty in London. Earlier in the 19th century, John Snow, a London doctor, discovered a statistical pattern among cholera cases which led to the removal of a pump that was the source of condemnation of a water supply. This is to mention but few cases of the significance help statistics can render to the people in different fields. Can every Southerner takes his/her statistics seriously in the coming April so that he-she is legalized to be one of the people of Southern Sudan by documented record? It would be a great service to that beloved motherland if the people of Southern Sudan turn up massively for that rare occasion.

* James Okuk is a Southern Sudanese pursuing his PhD in political Philosophy in the University of Nairobi. He can be reached at: [email protected]