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Is the APC Already at Work to Unduly Influence the Outcome of the Upcoming Census for Political Gain?

Is the APC Already at Work to Unduly Influence the Outcome of the Upcoming Census for Political Gain?

Every ten years Sierra Leone, like other countries in the world is required to conduct a census. The last census was conducted in 2004; which makes this year—2014 a census year. The primary purpose of a census is to gather information about the population living in the country at a certain point in time. Such information includes the number of people, population demography, and its geographical distribution. In addition, censuses is designed to collect information on the living conditions of the population, families and households including number of children, number of males and females, economic activity, and occupations of the population. Generally, the results of the census is used to determine the development  needs of a society as well as how resource are distributed to meet those needs across the population. Typically, the result of a census also shows a change in the distribution of the population from one decade to another. Quite often, such change in population distribution would warrant re-districting or boundary de-limitation of constituencies. It is this part of the census that the ruling APC appears to be more interested in influencing.

Several reports now in the public domain indicate that the ruling APC government is already at work trying to unduly influence the outcome of the census to secure an advantage at the next polls at the detriment of opposition parties. Traditionally, recruitment of census staff is open to all who are able to read and write regardless of political affiliation; and without the need for any specific training or prior experience. But reports now indicate that operatives of the ruling APC are anticipating a change in the recruiting process that appears to be to their advantage. It has been reported that in preparation for such change, APC has recruited several hundred die-hard APC youth and are been currently trained in census at the University of Makeini. This move appears to be in anticipation of a change in the recruiting process to require prior training in census for candidates to qualify to apply to become census officers. What remains unclear is how the APC operatives could have anticipated such change in requirements that are yet to be made public by the government agency responsible for the upcoming census. If it becomes the case, the timing of any future announcement of such change to the general public may not leave everyone else adequate time to prepare for and take such pre-requisite training. This will give the APC an undue advantage that will likely influence the outcome of the census in their favor.

Historically, census figures have been found to be inflated in many third world countries due mainly to the need to seek greater political representation as well as greater share of state resources. Accordingly, if the next census is conducted predominantly by census officers with allegiance to the ruling APC, there are reasons to believe that the results will among others indicate a disproportional growth in population in the APC strongholds in the North and perhaps the Western Area, and a disproportional decrease in population in the opposition strongholds in the South and East of the country. And given that registration for the next elections will likely be based on the new census figures, it can be inferred that those inflated numbers will not only lead to boundary de-limitations that allocate additional constituencies to the North and West while reducing those in the South and East, but also likely to allocate more voters in the North and West while at the same time suppressing voter population in the South and East. This will present a situation where there may not be a level playing field for all political parties in the next elections; an outcome that has the tendency to undermine the country’s multi-party democratic process.

By: Mustapha Wai, Washington D.C, USA

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