February 23, 2013 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s government has approved $92m to facilitate the process for the upcoming 2014 population census that will be conducted prior to the general elections in 2015.
The money was approved per the request presented to the cabinet by the chairperson of the National Bureau of Statistics, Isaiah Chol Aruai, on Friday.
The fresh census will be the first of its kind since South Sudan split from the former Sudan and became independent in July 2011.
The then semi-autonomous region conducted a population and housing census in 2008 under the former Sudan but the 8.3 million population result was contested and rejected by officials in South Sudan who said some areas were not covered by enumerators.
Also a good number of South Sudanese have returned home from the Diaspora after the conduct of the last census.
The 2014 exercise is a constitutional requirement in the new nation as it will be used to determine the number of constituencies that will be contested in the elections.
An accurate population figure will also be used to guide government’s plans in service delivery based on a correct population of people in a given area.
The 450-member Juba parliament is currently composed of members elected by South Sudan’s constituencies during the 2010 elections plus those that were elected to the then national parliament in Khartoum and later absorbed into the new country’s parliament after the split.
The 2008 census also did not include ethnicity in the questionnaire which was demanded by the then South[ern] Sudan in order to know the population of each community in the ethnically diverse country.
In July 2009 the 2008 census was rejected by the Southern Sudanese autonomous government in Juba with the parliament passing a resolution stating that: "the central bureau of statistics in Khartoum refused to share the national Sudan raw census data with the southern Sudan centre for census, statistics and evaluation."
The assembly resolved "to totally reject the Sudan fifth population and housing census results of 2008 which shall be null and void and shall not be used for any national planning whatsoever, least of all 2010 national [elections] and 2011 referendum" in which South Sudanese voted for independence.
South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir, said in 2009 that he suspected figures had been deflated in some regions and inflated in others and that South Sudanese represented one third of the total population of Sudan, despite the 2008 census putting the figure at only 22%.
Bad weather, poor communication and transport networks, were some of reasons put forward for the apparent under counting. Some areas of South Sudan were unreachable during the counting period and South Sudanese in the diaspora were also not included.
South Sudan’s Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Service, Madut Biar Yel, said that the new census information will be used to influence policy at many levels.
“The council of ministers on Friday in the session chaired by vice President Riek Machar passed a budget to conduct [a] census in 2014. The budget was actually presented to the cabinet long time ago by the chairperson of the commission. The budget passed is about 27 billion [South Sudanese] pound[s] which is roughly about $92 million”, Yel told Sudan Tribune on Saturday.
He explained that one of the reasons and the needs for which census is required is that it is important in the provision of detailed population figures, especially in counting the number of people in each region, county, town and local area and this helps authorities in making better decisions about providing utilities, transport, healthcare requirements and education facilities.
“Apart from provision of services, [a new] census helps in allocation of resources and representation. The result can also be another important economic tool, since it is the only means of accurately measuring the exact extent of migration. By comparing the results of successive censuses, and taking account of the number of births and deaths that have occurred over the same period, we get an accurate measure of net migration”, he explained.
Yel called on the citizens to support the exercise, which he described as one of the most important undertakings in any country in the world.
“I called on our people to support this exercise. It is important for everybody. It is important you as individual, your family, your parents, children and the whole country. It tells us who we are! It is an exercise done once after every five years. It gives a comprehensive picture of the social and living conditions of our people. Census provides complete detail right down to the smallest area and the results are an essential tool for effective policy, planning and decision making purposes”, he adds.
He revealed that the cabinet had resolved to hold a conference from which it expects donors and other development partners would make their contributions to support the the exercise but did not say how much the government expected to raise.
“We know that the exercise requires huge funds, materials and human resources but because of the necessity, the government despite all the financial challenges will definitely take the lead. The cabinet had also resolved that a donor conference should be held in March to solicit funds from to support the conduct of the exercise”, Yel told Sudan Tribune on Saturday.
He explained that the exercise will be conducted in phases some of which have been recommended to be carried out immediately after the cabinet had passed the budget.
Isaiah Chol Aruai, chairperson of the commission said the institution had already completed technical preparation but that the commission could not start implementing some of its activities because the government did not approve the budget to support the conduct.
“We have been ready as a commission. The technical aspects are not the cause of the delay. The main challenge has been lack of funds”, Aruai said.
He explained that one of the first phases will be training staff of the commission and those who will participate in the exercise to impart knowledge on main characteristics of the population in the country and to better understand the interrelationships of the population and development as well as building a sustainable data system and make available any information which the government and various institutions may require for development and other activities.
The official explained that the training will equip and develop skills of the staff in the use of Geographic Information System (GIS), data collection, data processing, analysis, data dissemination and utilisation; to improve availability, accessibility and utilisation of census outputs in a timely manner; to identify population characteristics for the purpose of guiding social-economic policies and programs; to update the enumeration area maps and maps for use in sampling frame for inter-censual surveys; to establish an integrated GIS for the purpose of producing thematic maps; and to build a data processing system that produce tables for publication and further analysis as well as proper archiving of census data.