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Cablegate: Census Disinformation Campaign Mars Aftermath of Sudan

VZCZCXRO2977
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1027/01 1911515
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 091515Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1282
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001027

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 DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN MARS AFTERMATH OF SUDAN
ELECTION LAW APPROVAL

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Recent stories in the Sudanese press purporting to
present "preliminary census results" are a fabrication, with no
basis in fact. Post has confirmed with the local UNFP office,
heavily involved in the entire census process, that scanning of the
raw census data has not even begun, so no preliminary figures exist.
Individuals close to the SPLM are viewing the misleading newspaper
stories, using completely fabricated data, as a "media blitz" being
mounted by pro-NCP media outlets and journalists. These sources
suspect the disinformation campaign is designed to sour prospects
for intra-Presidency discussions set for later this week. The
Government of Southern Sudan has issued public statements aiming to
calm southern outrage in the face of media reports that put the
South's population below even 1983 levels. SPLM insiders and
staffers within the GOSS Presidency claim the move is indicative of
continued NCP unease about forthcoming elections, and reflects an
attempt by them to stall meaningful discussions on Abyei-related
issues. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) On July 8, the rabidly anti-SPLM Arabic newspaper Al Sahafa
published what it claimed were "authorized census figures" endorsed
by the national Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) that placed the
South'Q"g^kkM Deputy
Secretary General Anne Itto, dismissed the publication as a
"laughable intimidation tactic." She commented that "the use of
presumably dated figures only demonstrates Khartoum's return to
tried-and-true tactics of disinformation and misinformation."

UNFP DISMISSES NEWS REPORTS AS FALSE
------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Jimmy Musok, Sudan representative of the United Nations
Population Fund (UNFP), laughed when told by Embassy Poloff of the
newspaper stories. "I can categorically say that those articles are
not true," he said. He explained that the scanning of raw census
data will not even begin until August 1, making it unlikely that any
preliminary census results will be available before the end of 2008.


5. (SBU) Southern Sudan Commission for the Census and Statistical
Evaluation (SSCCSE) Chairman Isaiah Chol was more heated on the
subject. Reached by ConGen PolOff July 8, he asserted that it was
impossible to obtain any results from the census this early in 2008.
Both the SSCCSE and CBS were still retrieving completed census
forms from collections centers throughout the South. UNMIS/Juba
confirmed that the only forms delivered to the census processing
center in Rumbek thus far were those for the four states of the
greater Bahr el Ghazal region. Additional intra-South deliveries
have been stalled by President Bashir's decree grounding Russian
aircraft in Sudan.

6. (SBU) First notified of the press reporting by ConGen staff on
July 8 (Al Sahafa is not circulated in Rumbek) SSCCSE Chairman Chol
and his deputy expressed "absolute disbelief" at the media
reporting, and demanded to know the source of the data. On July 9,
Chol held a press conference denouncing the articles, and calling
for a similar statement by his national counterparts at CBS. Chol
rejected the press reports, noting the figures do not reflect the
South's growth since the 2005 signing of the CPA (substantiated by
the 2007 Household Health Survey conducted jointly by CBS and the
SSCCSE), nor do they match up against the number of forms
distributed by census enumeration teams. (NOTE: CBS has not yet
released a statement in response to the press stories. Embassy has
not been able to reach contacts at CBS. END NOTE)

7. (SBU) COMMENT: While it is far too early to know that the
census results may be, even UNFPA mapping put the South at twenty
percent of Sudan's population, while the SPLM contends it is at

KHARTOUM 00001027 002.2 OF 002


least thirty percent. We are unsure whether to blame low
professional journalistic standards or political dirty tricks for
the census misinformation campaign. If the intent was to rile SPLM
members and sow even more distrust between the SPLM and the NCP, the
campaign certainly pushed the right buttons. The disinformation
confirms the fears of SPLM members who have long insisted that the
NCP will stop at nothing to ensure that Southern Sudan's population
is significantly under-reported in the census, possibly resulting in
an under-representation in the National Assembly - if accepted by
both parties. The more likely outcome is that the result will be
less than what the SPLM would like (whether accurate or not), and
the SPLM will reject the result and negotiate a continuation of the
current status quo.

FERNANDEZ

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