Sudan began its fifth census Tuesday and tragedy wasted no time. Armed raiders shot at least two people in a Darfur displacement camp yesterday. Residents at the camp were protesting the national census and saying they would refuse to take part because they did not trust government organizers.
The census has been hailed as an important step towards Sudan's democratic elections, set to be held in 2009 under the terms of a north-south peace deal. It will also be used to decide the distribution of power and wealth. To see the story of one woman's journey and the US involvement, read more.
One woman who has been living in a refugee camp in Uganda said of the hard and dangerous journey home to be counted, "I am extremely happy to be back in my village. It looks the same as when I last saw it. It's a day that I have dreamt of for many years."
Many Darfuris have vowed to boycott the census because they doubt the results will be accurate. Sudan's semi-autonomous south has said it may not be bound by the results because thousands of displaced southerners would not be counted.
The US State Department has an official position on the count, saying that they welcome the start of the Fifth Sudan Population and Housing Census and praising it as a milestone in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which was supposed to end 21 years of civil war. The US also has a big financial stake in the census, having contributed $9.1 million towards preparations.
Do you see the census as a positive step? Are you hopeful that it can be fairly done? Does the US financial involvement surprise you?