Sierra Leone’s politics of census statistics – lies and damn lies

Alie Kabba (Sierra Leone presidential hopeful)

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 April 2016

Alie Kabba4On March 31, 2016, the government of Sierra Leone and Statistics Sierra Leone (the population, statistics and demographics monitoring institution of our country) released the provisional results of the country’s 2015 population census.

According to the report, the population of Sierra Leone now stands at just over seven million (7,075,641).

The provisional numbers show an overwhelming proportion of the declared population to be located within strongholds of the ruling APC party.

Whether true or not, this singular observation appears to lend credence to suspicion among major stakeholders like the opposition SLPP, that the numbers foreshadow a nefarious agenda to manipulate future election outcomes.

The suspicion reflects the pervasive disappointment of our people with the inept, partisan and ethno-regional APC government.

Fellow Sierra Leoneans, the process to objectively assess the population and demographic changes in a country through a census is an important effort for any country.

schools reopen in Sierra LeoneAmong the many benefits of such an effort is the empowerment of the country to carry out national planning for a variety of important concerns, including education, health, infrastructure, governance, security, general economic and social investments, and the formulation of policy to guide government’s steering of the machinery of state.

However, a census process may also provide an opportunity for a malevolent government to manipulate data, that will ultimately place them in a position of unfair dominance in near-perpetuity.

In this light, therefore, not only must the population census process be done right, it must also be seen to be done right.

Its implementation should be free of politically-motivated manipulations, and must be diligently and professionally carried out, in full compliance with the canons of international best practice.

The process and its outcomes must instil confidence in all, that those in power are honest, patriotic players in the exercise.

A reproach-free way, must ensure the unfettered participation of important stakeholder representatives, who should be able to provide technical assurance of diligence, genuineness and transparency.

In addition, all experts on the technical committee should be able to ascertain the professional validity of the methods employed.

These basic steps would lead to a minimization of civil and political dissatisfaction with the process and its outcomes, and guarantee technically acceptable census results.

parliamentary history - siaka stevensIn a politically sceptical and economically deprived country like Sierra Leone, which is led by a party with a long history of authoritarian rule, doubts about underlying politics of numbers only foment or reinforce dissatisfaction among its citizenry, thus attracting often-justified antipathy.

Fellow Sierra Leoneans, from the very early stages of this census process, some important concerns about the credibility of the process were expressed by major political stakeholders like SLPP and civil society moral guarantors like the Institute for Governance Reform (IGR).

In clear fashion, IGR cited the government’s appointment of an overwhelming number of APC operatives who were technically/professionally unsuitable as custodians of Statistics Sierra Leone (SSL), and the deployment of unabashedly partisan APC operatives to tactically oversee and manage the various district census offices around the country.

Election in Sierra LeoneIt is imperative that the provisional results of the 2015 Census be subject to independent technical review process.

This will validate the final result of the census as well as eliminate public suspicion that political considerations skewed the provisional numbers.

I am, therefore, calling on the APC government to allow an independent review process in order to establish the veracity, or otherwise, of what have been dished out to the nation in a heavily tainted bowl – labelled as “national census”.

The assurance of a peaceful and prosperous state, demands instilling the highest level of confidence in the processes and procedures that determine important decisions and outcomes.

I am also calling on Statistics Sierra Leone to accept and welcome the objective scrutiny of an independent technical review of the provisional results of the census, without delay or hesitation.


  1. This is the most silly criticism I have seen. It is true that census data are used for several strategic decisions including economic development. When people decide to reside in a locality I am positive the decision will be based on several other factors like family proximity, work/ business, school etc.

    Definitely, political party influence is not part of the reasons why a person will move except of course if the person is a career politician, like Alie Kabba himself who is in S/L now and not in Chicago.

    The census was conducted long ago and the people were already living where they are now. APC did not relocate people into these areas. Maybe Alie Kabba should do a reality check of himself.

    Alie should also know that if APC has people from other parties working in different branches of the government including the civil service, why would Alie assume that just because you live in a particular locality does not make you a sympathizer to any political party. It is a shame to start to cry foul play well before the election process has even started.

  2. May God bless you Dr Alie Kabbah for your article. With your continuous strides for good governance and leadership in Sierra Leone, the country of your birth and ancestors, and since when you were a student at the Fourah Bay College and up till now as a senior citizen you have tasted and endured the brutal reprisals and tortures for your comments about the then APC (Always Problems Continues) governments then and now, in your aspirations as a senior citizen and presidential political ambitions, I hope the masses will take your comments and views very seriously.

    President E B Koroma, history will judge you for your lack of leadership and lack of good governance to the people of Sierra Leone and in your pursuit of manipulating, dominating and controlling through clandestine, cruel means, so as to hold on to power by creating divisions, sectionalism and manipulation of vital state activities, such as the population census – in your thirst to held on to your party leadership to win the next election.

    No wonder Donald Trump said that Sierra Leone needs to be recolonised again for another 100 years by the British to teach us good governance and good leadership.

  3. Cooked results. Areas to investigate:

    1. People in the north are regarded as migratory and the south-easterners are non-migratory. Majority of northerners are found in Freetown, Bo, Kono and Kenema, etc., in search of business, minerals, etc. So how come they were able to get this high and alarming census figures recorded in the north?

    We need to investigate the incentives given to some data collectors, supervisors in the north to multiply household figures by either 2 or 3, depending upon the population of each household. For example I rented a house in Makeni and during census period, I was in Kenema and my landlord called and informed that he has registered me in my absence.

    For the north to have grown by 40-50% is too alarming as against other regions with 15 -23% growth rate. This shows that within ten years birth rate has increased by 40-50% in the north, as compared to other regions? This figure should not be attributed to the mining going on in the north, for these companies have faced financial challenges and have scaled down staff and operations, especially African Minerals, ADDAX and London Mining.

    2. People in neighboring border communities were conveyed from one place to another just to register. All these should be investigated and documented. Visit to chiefdoms along the border with Guinea like Tambaka, Tonko Limba etc and find out the alarming figures and what operated there. What a shame?

    • The SLPP should keep their peace and wait as the result published by statistics Sierra Leone are just provisional one.

      The government of doctor Ernest Bai Koroma has no interest in inflating figures for political or other gains. The records set by the president are out there for the public to judge him on his performance.

      So please Mr Kabba, stop casting suspicious on the government and allow them to continue doing the good work they started.

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