Alie Kabba (Sierra Leone presidential hopeful)
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 April 2016
On 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.
Among 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.
In 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.
It 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.