Sierra Leone’s 2021 population figures: what a census – Op ed

Dr. Dennis Bright: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 June 2022:

“You set out to count the number of people living in a village. There are 500 people living there. For some reason, you count only 300 people. The population of the village cannot be 300 inhabitants even if you used the best technology to do your counting.”

The SLPP provisional census results published yesterday, Tuesday 31st May 2022 are telling us so many interesting stories.

Statistics Sierra Leone (SSL) says that the district with the largest population in Sierra Leone today is Kenema with 772,472 inhabitants; there is an increase of 27% since 2015. Maybe soon they will tell us whether this increase is due to people rushing to Kenema because there is a lot of electricity, water, health facilities, jobs etc.! Or whether the good people of Kenema were so happy that the SLPP won the elections that they just celebrated by making 162,581 more babies!

Another interesting story from the census results is that in spite of the heavy rural-urban migration and the very visible swelling up of the city of Freetown (note that in recent years, even beggars from places like Kenema and Bo have flooded the streets of Freetown), the SLPP census claims that the population of Freetown has decreased by almost half since 2015, Freetown now has fewer people than Kenema!

And the same applies to Bo! According to the SLPP census there are 150,274 more people in Bo than in Freetown!

Even Bonthe where the population was just over 200,000 people in 2015, that district has now boomed to nearly 300,000. It’s crazy, isn’t it?

Here is one more indication that this is just an SLPP adjustment, not a census. The numbers in areas considered to be SLPP strongholds have significantly increased whereas in opposition dominated areas they been significantly reduced.

The populations in the North West, North East and Western Regions have altogether dropped by 236,799 whereas the South and Eastern regions have been credited with an additional 685,214 people. Crazy, isn’t it?

It is abundantly clear that this census was brewed specifically to favour the chances of the ruling SLPP regime in the forthcoming election. Using these skewed results, it is more than likely that the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) will soon be going to work to try to carve out new boundaries and provide more seats in Parliament for those areas in the South and East where SSL says the population has increased and probably reduce the number of Parliamentary seats for the Northern and Western regions where they say the population has decreased.

A few facts that we must remember about this crazy census are as follows:

  1. Government was in such a hurry to do this census that they broke the law by starting the process even before the Proclamation to do the census was brought to Parliament. Besides when it finally came to Parliament the law makers said that the Bill was not properly laid.
  2. There was disapproval and opposition to the conduct of a census at this time by a significant percentage of the population which explains the widespread unprecedented rejection of this census by the people of this country.
  3. Due to the haste and Government’s obstinate desire to do a census at all costs, the entire process was marred by so many errors, blunders and irregularities that it is shocking to see Statistics Sierra Leone (SSL) coming up with results knowing fully well that they are definitely not credible or usable.

After at least two postponements, trainings that ended the day before enumerators were deployed into the field, some faulty equipment, demotivated and protesting workers that complained about not being paid or being cheated, enumerators not visiting many villages and communities, it is really a big stain on the expected professionalism of our official statisticians that they do not have the courage and decency to cancel the results.

  1. Talking about professionalism, SSL should be worried that a major player in this so-called census at the level of Director, whose role in the handling of data was critical to the outcome of the census, is currently being interrogated under the Dominion Purge as someone whose degree may not be genuine and whose qualifications may have been limited to just a few short seminars and trainings.

We now understand why the World Bank decided to withdraw from this mock census, they knew that it would be wishy-washy and did not wish to be associated with the “porridge” that has now been presented as a provisional result.

Just a few days ago, on the eve of the announcement of the results, I attended a meeting at the SSL office in which a very senior person in that institution was blaming us in the opposition for being the influence behind the refusal of people in some communities to be counted.

Many people will attest though that although they wanted to take part, no enumerator turned up at their doorstep or even in their neighbourhood, for reasons that we now know are linked to the non-payment of their stipends and the general disgruntlement of the field staff. Whatever the reason may be, the truth is that a lot of people living in Sierra Leone were not counted.

And there lies the problem! If so many people were left out for whatever reason, this cannot be called a census of the population. It is basically a census of the willing and the lucky adjusted cleverly to fit into the grand plan for 2023.

It is hoped that this result will remain as it is, a provisional one to  be trashed after due consideration has been given to the multiple dangers we may face if they are certified.

If this was a normal country, the ACC would be investigating SSL for wasting State resources on this failed census even though technical partners like the World Bank had advised that the results may not be credible if they proceeded with it when they did.

But this is paopaland where anything is possible.

About the author

Dr. Dennis Bright is the Chairman and Leader of Sierra Leone’s opposition NGC party.


  1. I hope and pray that the NEGATIVE ENERGY spent on INSTIGATING AND INCITING our citizens will be transformed to POSITIVE ENERGY towards the CLEANING and DEVELOPMENT of Freetown.

  2. “Opinions don’t define your reality “. The census result is out. The records are now meant for our archive. The discussions will go on till the next session. But what really comes into play is our respective opinions about the sincerity of the census report?

    Well, to every project there must be an outcome that is referred to as result. Such result can either be tangible or intangible.

    One thing I want my audience to note is that the mid-term census was a project undertaken by government with a clear goal or goals. I stand to be corrected. The other thing I want to draw the attention of my audience is that when this goal was defined in the project it was communicated to the beneficiaries. The project had a time-line and was executed within its expected timeframe. If all these are facts then, I want to say that that the census was fair.

    Similarly, the sincerity of the results from the just concluded census can be drawn from the willingness of the beneficiaries who actually made it possible for them to be counted. In other words, before this census had to start, some members of the public including Dr. Denis Bright a politician went on air to discredit the process and inciting his country men not to show up. Other politicians from the opposition parties also did likewise. So if the result turns out that there followers failed to show up for the census, who is to be blamed? Is it the government or the people who made their choice where to belong. I called their actions as blind loyalty. Secondly, did you and I witness any scene where people were forced, beaten or molested for failing to show up to be counted? If this was not done, then it demonstrates that the census result is sincere. It follows the democratic principles.

    Finally, I personally want to tell Dr.Denis Bright the politician to kindly leave the Kenema people out of this. We, the inhabitants of Kenema are very accommodating and willing to accept anything that is geared towards developing our society. To note but a few, Conciliation Resources established its office in Kenema for which you Mr. Bright happens to be the Country Director at that time. In fact, Kenema prove to be a success story of your program compared to any other town in Sierra Leone. I stand to be corrected. Also note that Kenema is a business hub of the Eastern Region of Sierra Leone that borders with neighboring Liberia. Kenema also happens to be the economic hub of the country therefore , it is expected to get large population of people in this district. Thank you for reading my comment.

  3. Eyatima says —“The 2004, and 2015 General census had Kenema District over 600,000/=. The figures are there and people should read. The question was why did the figures for Kenema District not change between the 2004 and 2015 census?…”

    Not sure exactly where this individual get his cooked up figures regarding our previous census, however, I may like to remind the poster that, the Sierra Leone Telegraph commentary forum is not the place where propagandist statements goes unnoticed. Here we get people on their toes and demand facts, not emotionally derived outburst, meant to fool villagers.

    Now as per both 2004 and 2015 census results, Kenema has a population of 497,948 and 609,891 respectively. A simple math will show a population growth of 111,943 between the 2 census. As will all districts results, one can make a valid argument that the result did not capture all the population. But a growth of almost 112,000 for a rural district is significant.

  4. June 2023 is here. Already. This is because given the so-called provisional census results, there is an inescapable feeling that we are right in the middle of Bio and his Paopa regime’s re-election victory parade. The President and his regime are here to stay for at the very least another five-year term. Put another way, Bio and his party’s current re-election bid has borne the desired fruit twelve whole months in advance. This re-election manoeuvring and its attendant triumph amount to nothing less than a chronicle of large-scale electoral fraud foretold.

    And to say that Statistics Sierra Leone headed by some of the most accomplished mathematical scientists our country possesses has used its weight to support and legitimise this monumental political fraud, is the bit of the chronicle that is most troubling and indeed mind boggling. Our statisticians’ expertise and experience are the result, one would think, of a rigorous and ethically sound and uncompromising academic training they have had the honour and privilege to receive. To see the hard-earned expertise and experience being enlisted and put to immoral uses is very depressing indeed.

    Clearly, if our men of science, men possessed of superb rational and logical thought, are only too ready these days to kowtow to the diktats of political power rather than speaking truth to such power, what hope is left then for the birth, growth and consolidation of a genuinely democratic political culture in our beloved homeland? That thirty pieces of silver thing comes readily to mind here. It seems that in today’s Sierra Leone, corrupt politics and politicians will stop at nothing, including gerrymandering their way to power to the point of putting at great risk the integrity of the best brains among us. Brains that end up betraying our nation. Which is an absolute and unnameable tragedy.

  5. “Or whether the good people of Kenema were so happy that the SLPP won the elections that they just celebrated by making 162,581 more babies!” – Dr. Denis Bright

    A very nice one from a chairman of a political party that actually came third in Kenema District in the 2018 General and Presidential elections.

    The 2004, and 2015 General census had Kenema District over 600,000/=. The figures are there and people should read. The question was why did the figures for Kenema District not change between the 2004 and 2015 census?. And there were cries from some quarters about skewed figures in favour of some areas in the North and west and against some areas in the east. This was explained during the 2018 election when the North East in particular had several unclaimed voting cards. But going by Dr. Denis Bright demeaning comments in his article against the people of Kenema, one may be tempted to say that “between 2004 and 2015, the people of Kenema subjected themselves for castration which resulted to no change in the figures of their population.

  6. Fantastic article there by one of Sierra Leone’s most descent and honest politicians, no other than Mr Dennis Bright. I will return to this fascinating article later. But for now, I have some questions which have left me scratching my head Were there more deaths in the North, Northwest and the Western Area in the years after the last census, because of poor health, disease, malnutrition and poverty than the rest of the country?

    Are people from the East, especially the three K areas and some parts of the South very happy with the present economic hardship that they were busy producing children like crazy? Have the three Ks and some areas in the south been living good and healthy all these years? Unbelievable stuff. See the congestion in Freetown and all the shortages (water, food, housing, ect). Yet, Freetown’s population decreased. I don’t get that.

    As I said sometime ago that we should all make ourselves available to be counted, because it’s the right thing to do. But also said, if there are any problems with the results that will create an atmosphere of confusion and probably political unrest or tension due to poor and irresponsible census operations, then the Minister of Economic and Development Planning and the Statistics Department officials should be held responsible and if possible, be sacked. People should always give correct advice to the President and not doing things for their personal interest. If they knew that holding the mid term census was not possible, they should have informed the President. Period! Anyway, the results are provisional. Let’s see if it goes through or validated. God bless Sierra Leone. TBC.

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