Opposition parties in Sierra Leone continue to cast doubt on government’s midterm census

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10th December 2021:

As day one of Sierra Leone’s midterm census comes to an end – hailed by the government as a success, opposition political parties say the midterm census is an absolute waste of money and a misplaced priority by the government.

Today, the Consortium of Progressive Political Parties (COPPP)  issued a statement, strongly condemning the government and accusing it of intransigence, despite warning from the World Bank of serious technical difficulties with the planning and delivery of the census.

This is what the COPPP press statement says:

“The Consortium of Progressive Political Parties (COPPP) notes with concern the decision of the Government to proceed with the mid-term census in spite of the numerous issues surrounding the project.

“On 7th December 2021 the World Bank decided to stop giving technical assistance or funding support to the mid-term census. Their reason for doing so is very clear:

“…several critical action points require further technical work to be satisfactorily addressed including evaluation of the pilot census, the field operation plan for the enumeration, and ensuring enumerators are adequately trained. All these outstanding actions are necessary and must be addressed prior to commencing data collection to minimize the risk of inadequate and poor data quality. There is insufficient time between now and December 10, 2021 to satisfactorily address all pending actions.”

“From the very start, COPPP has been warning against the Government’s apparent haste to conduct this mid-term census at all costs. The World Bank has made it clear that very critical actions of a technical nature which should have preceded the start of the census were not taken and this has increased the risk of inadequate and poor quality data. The World Bank is in fact saying that it is pointless wasting money on a poorly prepared project which is bound to produce worthless data that may even turn out to be unusable.

“If, in spite of all these warnings from experts, our Government is bent on going ahead at top speed with its census, it confirms our suspicion that their interest is not really about obtaining quality data. The mad rush by Government to conclude this census reveals why this census is so important to them: in our view, the mid-term census is a tool to be used for gerrymandering before the next elections.

“This country has never been so divided over a census. There have been violent confrontations and protests in Parliament, protests in local councils, protests by political parties, all clearly indicating that the climate is not conducive for the conduct of a census. Yet, the Government is bent on going ahead to count. There have been arrests and invitations by the police of senior political leaders for expressing their opinions about this “census on steroids”. But nothing, not even the probability of failure, can make this Government stop and think.

“COPPP would like to inform the public that Government’s insistence on continuing with this census against all odds may end up being one of the most wasteful enterprises in recent times. As is suggested by the World Bank, the huge amounts of money being spent on a census that experts have already projected to be a failure due to technical inadequacies could have been used for other urgent necessities, such as hospital equipment and consumables.

“Our position therefore remains unchanged about this mid-term census:

“There are too many unresolved technical problems about the mid-term census and Government’s insistence on conducting it without addressing these issues will most certainly lead to poor data quality and a failed census.

“All indicators are showing that the main object of the census is to find numbers that would necessitate boundary delimitation before the next election

“Considering the level of controversy that the census project has caused and the divisions it has created in society, the situation is not appropriate for the conduct of a census that requires maximum cooperation from all citizens.

“Although the President has the authority by law to call for a census at any time he so wishes the citizens also have the right to express their opinions about his decision. Even laws can be challenged; otherwise there will be no repeals.

“The recent attempts to intimidate political leaders by arresting or inviting them for questioning and the use of threats by Government Ministers are unacceptable and will not be of any effect if the people are resolute not to participate. Coercion will not work because in a democracy the powers of Authority do not cancel the freedoms of the Citizen.

“We therefore call on the Sierra Leone Police to stop the harassment of political leaders and their supporters.

“We warn that in the event of a total failure of the project all those involved in making decisions for the conduct of the census ignoring all the technical and expert advice received against it, will in future be held to account for the extreme wastage of public funds that they would have caused.

“We reiterate that this mid-term census is not good for our country at this time.”

4 Comments

  1. Mr Jalloh, your comments are time after time accurate, offering in the same breath
    well-founded, practical, indeed down-to-earth suggestions and recommendations that those who currently rule our country would be well advised to take into consideration if they had any sense at all. Indeed, tackling the ever present, ever mutating viral menace that Covid-19 has become should be Bio and his administration’s number one priority right now. Everything else, including our nation’s economic health or growth, censuses and general and presidentialelections, revolves around stopping the viral disease dead in its tracks.

    To therefore redirect our nation’s meagre resources to the conduct of an untimely and dare I say unnecessary population head count is the very height of folly and futility, not to say irresponsibility. But as we know, the motive behind the pointless statistical exercise is as many commentators have rightly pointed out, first and foremost, and narrowly so, political. There is name for it – gerrymandering: the redrawing of constituency boundaries for electoral gain.

    It is said that the previous administration acted no differently. However, does that justify the current administration’s own action? Are past wrongs not meant to be undone by succeeding administrations? If Bio’s political practice is shaped by his political philosophy of ‘New Direction’, then how ironical, and so inexcusable, that he has chosen to look backwards. Bio spews political philosophical bombast and then goes on to practice a politics of pettiness, that is, repugnant political skulduggery.

  2. Mr Yillah you are spot on. This is a government that have lost its sense of direction and purpose. Bio is trying to regain the momentum, by conducting this midterm census, which is not in the national interest. Any suggestions that this census will advance national development, is completely out of kilter of what many governments around the world that cares about their people are doing right now. Instead of wasting much needed resources on a census that only buttress Bio’s determination to stay in power either by hook or crook, our country will be better served if he directs those resources, to get more Covid19 vaccines for our country’s population. And encourage people to take the vaccine so our country will be in a better place if and when the pandemic is brought under control to recovery swiftly .

    Corruption and covid19 is the main drivers of our country’s economics and financial woes. With the South African Omricon variant spreading like wildfires, the issue for governments is not about population counts, but how do you tailor policies that will mitigate the impact it has on communities up and down tbe country. This is where the politices stops, and work towards the national development for the good of all . Bio promised us the world in 2018,and suffice to say his record so far is not one would claim to be proud of. Tackleing corruption and government waste is the main platforms he ran on, and none of those two promises has been delivered. The people of Sierra Leone can’t fall into the trap of your promises anymore because they’ve seen what you are capable of doing. You’ve allowed socalled experts to hijacked your presidency, and through their actions or the lack of it managed to destroy a once promising economy that was posting a 3% to 4%percent growth.

    The main point is getting our pirioties right. Holding a census, in the middle of a once in a century pandemic, is no brainer. Maybe how we roll out a vaccination programmes, and encourage more people to take the jab, might help us to recover faster economically, and aviod an other disastrous Covid19 restrictions. What was the point of counting population heads, when you have a disease that is killing those same people ? If we fail to tackle the covid19 pandemic, we might just end up with a lesser population than the census results produce.

  3. A party of diagonals, unlawful, desperate and self impose policy, nothing like APC. The same census that the APC party put in place that corrupt and destroyed this country, that’s the one SLPP is trying to fix. All the census problems need to be fixed right now.

  4. A government that pushes its decisions and policies through coercively and therefore undemocratically is a desperate government; it is a failed or failing government; it is a government that betrays an utter lack of self-belief; it is a government of cowards and bullies and ultimately of despots leading the country they rule to certain doom and gloom.

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