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Cablegate: Census: Home-Stretch Looking Better

VZCZCXRO8287
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0231/01 0451516
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 141516Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9970
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000231

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: CENSUS: HOME-STRETCH LOOKING BETTER


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: President Bashir issued a February 11 presidential
decree reiterating that Sudan's inaugural nation-wide census will be
conducted April 15-30. The following day's meeting of the Census
Technical Working Group (TWG) left donors, the CBS, and the Southern
Sudan Commission for the Census and Statistical Evaluation largely
satisfied about the pace of preparations for the census. However,
delays in financial transfers remain a problem: $27.2 million
remains to be transferred to the CBS, with $13.4 million of it
destined for the SSCCSE. A second problem is GOSS unhappiness with
the questions on the census form - which they say do not reflect
requested changes pushed for by the SPLM in November 2007. END
SUMMARY.

------------------------------
CENSUS STATUS: SO FAR, SO GOOD
------------------------------

2. (SBU) Donors including the EC, World Bank, Danida, and USG were
cautiously optimistic about the national census following a February
12 TWG meeting. CBS staff spoke about remaining challenges to the
conduct of the census in the North. For example, the CBS does not
have enough funding to conduct a training of trainers for
enumerators, and will be forced to depend on the Center's
supervisory staff to conduct training - a task for which they
themselves have not been trained. Additionally, the CBS has not yet
been able to identify adequate storage facilities for census forms
and equipment in the North.

3. (SBU) The SSCCSE, in contrast, is reportedly ahead of its CBS
counterparts on all technical aspects of the census (particularly
its public advocacy campaign) save for completed mapping of
enumerator areas. Mapping in Jonglei remains incomplete as a result
of instability in the state (the South's largest) but is 90%
complete; the Commission believes this task will be finalized by
mid-March. Minster for Internal Affairs Paul Mayom told ConGen
PolOff that the GOSS is closely monitoring the security situation in
the South, and save for limited areas within Western Bahr El Ghazal
state bordering South Darfur and portions of Upper Nile State which
border Ethiopia, he does not foresee security incidents disrupting
the census. "Jonglei will have been fixed by then," he said.

--------------------
EXCEPT FOR THE MONEY
-------------------

4. (SBU) Inconsistent and insufficient financial transfers still
hamper the census, and observers agree that this must be addressed
immediately. The SSCCSE reported to the TWG that it was still owed
$4.4 million in 2007 funds from the CBS. The newly-appointed CBS
Chairman noted that he did not have immediate information, as the
decision to withhold funds pre-dated his appointment, but promised
he would move to rectify the situation upon his return to Khartoum.
The chairman then noted that the GNU owes $22.8 million from 2008
funding to the census effort, yet the recently passed National
Budget Act only includes $18 million in funding. The World Bank
counseled donors after the TWG Session to ignore the shortfall and
focus their advocacy efforts on the immediate release of funds to
the CBS and its immediate transfer of funds to the SSCCSE.

------------------------
AND PERHAPS CREDIBILITY
------------------------

5. (SBU) The World Bank, USG, and EC remain worried by the
Monitoring and Observation Commission (MOC) performance to date and
are advocating for international representatives on the Commission
to change their status from Member to Observer. Donor views on a
status-shift remain mixed: France, the UK, and Denmark believe it is
too pessimistic a political signal to send in advance of the census;
the EC is likely to unilaterally withdraw regardless of the decision
of other donors. (Note: See comment for suggested U.S. actions on
this issue. End note.)

6. (SBU) Donors remain dissatisfied with the MOC work plan for
observation of the census. Viewed by most donors as "lacking," some
observers pointed out that the plan may reflect the NCP's
unwillingness to permit an accurate population count in southern
Sudan to avoid a potential upward shift in the number of seats
awarded to the SPLM in the National Assembly. Donors are planning
to submit to the MOC the week of February 18 a work-plan for census
observation. The plan was formulated by an international
consultancy and contains timelines and scopes of work for specific
technical experts during each phase of the census (conduct,
tabulation, and data editing and interpretation) in an attempt to
mitigate the potential for political manipulation.

------------------------------------------

KHARTOUM 00000231 002 OF 002


NOTICEABLY ABSENT: THE POLITICAL DIMENSION
------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) The TWG did not discuss the Government of Southern Sudan's
reported objection to census forms already printed which may not
reflect changes agreed to in November 2007. GOSS Minister for
Presidential Affairs Luka Biong Deng was not pleased following a
February 8 meeting with UNMIS's David Gressly in which the UN
explained the oversight. Last-minute SPLM requests on ethnicity and
religion did not make the final printing, leaving only one identity
question on the short questionnaire and no reference to geographic
origin (i.e., Northerner/Southerner). The origin question remains
pegged to county-level identification. Despite this, USAID
contractors at the TWG reported that the SPLM - at least at the
technical level - is not objecting to continuing with the census
rollout.

COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) Comment: The USG should decide whether to remain a "member"
of the MOC or downgrade our participation to observer status. Post
welcomes input from Washington on the issue. A nuanced position
could be to offer observers in a technical capacity but downgrade to
observer status. It would be useful, however, for all donors to
agree to a united front on this issue. Given continued MOC
resistance to donor observation, and its seeming indifference to
appropriate oversight of the census, donors have concluded that
census observation by the Carter Center, proffered during former
President Carter's discussions on the 2009 Elections with Presidents
Bashir and Kiir in 2007, may be the most viable vehicle for ensuring
the participation of credible election observers.

POWERS

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