March 14, 2010 (WASHINGTON) – The approximately 5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sudan were under-counted and are under-represented on voter rolls, especially in Darfur, claims an international advocacy group.
- Displaced Sudanese women and children seeking medical treatment line up outside the Egyptian military field hospital at Abu Shouk refugee camp, outside the Darfur town of al-Fasher, Sudan Thursday, March 26, 2009 (AP)
The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) boycotted the fifth national census and the counting operations in the three states of Darfur region. Government officials and IDPs said census enumerators were not able to count the residents of the camps.
Census Director in West Darfur, Ms Wafaa Hassan Mansour, at the time, said the Central Bureau of Statistics had decided to estimate the number of people in the camps and other "unsafe" areas based on information from humanitarian agencies working in Darfur.
The authorities decided collect data from humanitarian organizations which hold lists of all the displaced in order to distribute food and medical care.
The total of Sudan’s population is 39,154,490, with 7.5 million in Darfur. According to the final results announced in May 2009 there are 4,039,594 living in South Darfur state.
"The alienation of the IDPs from the whole process of census, registration and elections is a result of their profound distrust of the government," the group said in a new report released this week.
“We would not accept any idea from the government, even if it were for our own benefit,” one IDP said to describe the gap between them and government.
IDP action highlighted three systemic flaws in the census and voter registration processes. First, millions of southerners living in or around Khartoum "will not have the voice within Parliament that their large numbers would warrant" because of under-registration. Khartoum state had the lowest percentage registration of any state in the country.
Second, the under-registration of IDPs in the in the south would keep them from power which could lead to increasing the fragility of the situation and the chances of violence.
Third, there is "strong evidence of falsification of census results and registration" in Darfur. On this point, IDP Action’s report cited an IDP from Zalingei who suggested there may be elections in the secure areas of towns, but the IDPs in camps will not participate.
Jeremy Smith, the professional staff member listed on the IDP Action’s website, stated in a press release that the disenfranchisement of IDPs pushes them further off the political radar in Sudan.
IDP Action spoke by telephone to IDPs and others in El Fasher, Nyala, El Geneina, Kabkabiya, Zalingei and the camps of Abu Shouk and Kalma. After these interviews, the advocacy group concluded that "the opinion was unanimous: IDPs knew that they would not be fairly represented in the elections."
IDP Action is an human rights and development campaigning organization based in London and Amsterdam. It released last week a new report on IDPs and elections in Sudan.
The Board of the organization comprises four former or current Amnesty International employees or consultants.
Total IDP populations, Sudan – compiled by IDP Action
|Area||IDPs in camps or defined areas||IDPs living among the host population|
|Khartoum||400,000 in defined areas set aside by the government [United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR]||1.3 million in informal squatter areas [UNHCR]|
|Darfur||c.1.7m||c.1 million [UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA]|
|“Marginal Areas”||200,000 from Blue Nile; 100,000 from Kordofan [end 2008, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, IDMC]|
|East||420,000 at end 2008 [IDMC]|
|South||267,500 [2010, OCHA]|