Officials doubt conduct of census ahead of elections

By Bida Elly David

The National Election Commission (NEC) and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) are casting doubts over the conduct of population and housing census which is the key requirement for the conduct of free, fair and credible Democratic elections in December 2024 as the unity government race is against time to complete implementation of revitalized peace agreement roadmap.

Chairperson of South Sudan National electoral commission has said that the Country is most likely to conduct democratic elections without Census due to the fact that the roadmap has been impacted by number of challenges.

This development arose during presentation of South Sudan 2021 Population Estimation Survey report carried out to determine the tentative population of the country.

Speaking to the media after the event, Abednego Akok the chairperson of South Sudan national election commission (NEC) said South Sudan will use 2008 population figure to conduct the elections.

He urged peace parties within the unity government to gear up the implementation of the peace roadmap extending the transition noting that they will be accountable in case of any failures.

“One of the ways to conduct elections is to use the 2008 Census which was done during Sudan time because resources currently are not available. If the revitalized peace agreement is implemented in time, there may be chance to conduct elections,” he said.

Akok further said it is not the mandate of the electoral commission to force the government rather a political decision that will be recommended by the peace partners on whether urgent census should be conducted before elections.

“We only appeal to peace loving people and the government so that we come with a strategic plan such that we prepare for census urgently. If it doesn’t happen, that is a political decision not mine but they will tell us the way forward,” he said.

According to the recent report on South Sudan population estimation survey, the total statistics of people across the Country was estimated to be 12,444,017.

According to Isaiah Chol Aruai, the chairperson of South Sudan National Bureau of Statistics, the estimated population is far greater than the previous 2008 figure which was 8.26 million where 4.29 million were male and 3.97 female respectively.

Isaiah underscored that the recent estimated population was conducted to help the government execute policies that will aid them in budgeting and other things noting that it was not meant for election purposes.

He said that the recent estimated population figures were generated based on satellite imagery and enumeration aimed at providing accurate estimates and other demographic and socio-economic characteristics of inhabitants.

“This figure cannot be used for elections. They can only be used for policy formulation and planning for service delivery. They can’t be used for elections because the figures that emanated from the survey may not be suitable for conducting elections,” he stated.

Chol criticized the government for slowing the agreement noting that there must be need for census to be carried out before elections to determine the number of voters.

NBS boss slammed government for using political threats to hang what is crucial for the nation adding it is dangerous to keep halting provisions that will transform the nation into a better place.

He said that the roadmap generated from the agreement does not accommodate or stipulate conduct of national census terming it to be dangerous since no Country can conduct elections without knowing the statistics of their people.

Mr. Chol said that they will be making the next step to disseminate the results from the 2021 population survey to states such that it is used as a document for policy making.

“We don’t have choice. Census is a political decision and it is not us to decide either to have Census or not, it is the political leadership to tell us what to do,” he said.

He concluded that South Sudan elections will not be genuine if it is going to be conducted with approximate statistics that is not accurate based on the facts needed.

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