Nationwide population census begins

A nationwide population census began on Monday in the Central African Republic (CAR), with financial and logistic support from the European Commission, the UN Population Fund and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

The census, due to end on 22 December, is aimed at preparing the country for forthcoming general elections and to enable the government to plan developmental programmes. Some 4,000 trained agents are conducting the census.

The last general population census in the country was carried out in 1988. It indicated that the CAR had a population of 3.5 million.

The 8-22 December census coincides with the government’s electoral calendar, according to which the electoral census and lists would be completed between December 2003 and January 2004.

Speaking on state-owned Television Centrafricaine on Saturday, UNDP representative Stan Nkwain called on the public to cooperate with the census agents.

The census is being conducted at a time when some people are still in hiding and others in exile due to insecurity, especially in the north, where most of the October 2002-March 2003 rebellion against President Ange-Felix Patasse took place. The fighting ended on 15 March, when former army chief of staff Francois Bozize overthrew Patasse.

However, cattle raids and incidents of armed robbery were reported to have increased in recent days in the north. A peacekeeping force deployed since December 2002 by the Economic Monetary Community of Central African States is helping the army to maintain security across the nation.