Your trusted place for Sierra Leone and global news
HomeFeaturedThe 2015 ‘National Census Politics’ and the Future of Sierra Leone

The 2015 ‘National Census Politics’ and the Future of Sierra Leone

The 2015 ‘National Census Politics’ and the Future of Sierra Leone

The Statistics Act of 2002 gives Sierra Leone Statistics Sierra Leone (SSL) the statutory mandate to effectively plan and coordinate statistical activities in Sierra Leone, with the aim of collecting, processing, analyzing and disseminating accurate, clear, relevant, timely and high quality statistical information on social, demographic, economic and financial activities to serve the need of users, including Government and general public.

In other words, the statutory mandate of SSL requires for its successful realisation a consequence of the best of minds and brains at work; sincerity, integrity and the political will that will provide the necessary data for proper future planning and monitoring of the nation’s development progress.

According to the United Nations Handbook on population census process, the exercise mandates a quick count of households in each locality of a given nation.

Since Independence, the National Population and Housing Census of Sierra Leone in normal times takes place in every ten years; the last was conducted in 2004.

Of all the previous censuses of the country, the December 2015 census comes in a category of its own that foreshadows a controversial future result, should it be conducted anyhow. The count-down exercise to December 2015 has already aroused patriotic sentiments, opinions and differing political, regional and tribal views; thanks to the upsurge in the people’s awareness of issues that affect their rights and wrongs these days.

In the beginning was a red flag raised by against SSL by an independent civil society organization – Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) for its alleged faulty handling of the cartographic mapping and its pilot census.

“Analysis shows Statistics Sierra Leone was in error of about 40 percent of the entire census process; anomalies were too glaring to ignore,” noted the IGR Executive Director, Andrew Lavali.

The IGR report claimed that the enumeration areas, which should comprised between 80-120 houses as benchmark, were below 60 households, “9 out of 14 District Census Officers were either ruling (All People’s Congress) party officials or well known party activists,” noted the IGR report.

It added that, background check on the staff revealed that SSL has given absolute control of officials of the ruling party to manage the data collection and census management process.

The IGR report further claimed that seven out of the eight members of the management team of the SSL are from the north (home of the President)s and that none of them is a demographer or a statistician.

“There is a mismatch between the qualification and experience of the post holders and benchmark qualifications recommended by the Management review of the positions,” stated the IGR report.

The report provoked a groundswell of emotions and counter-emotions in the Sierra Leone society.

The main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) reacting particularly to cartographic map updating said the process was completely flawed and unprofessionally handled, which is bound to have a disastrous effect on the final results of the National Population and Housing Census.

“It goes without saying that the distorted (rogue) census will produce population figures that are incorrect and would not only undermine subsequent development programs, but also impact negatively on both the forthcoming 2016 Local and 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, especially if the National Electoral Commission (NEC) uses the Census Population Figures to delineate constituencies, and creates Polling Stations.”

The SLPP claimed that the evidence adduced indicated that the cartographic map updating was grossly mishandled. That is, limited areas of the country were covered: very few Enumeration Areas (EAs), very few localities and consequently very few houses.

The opposition party intimated that the responsibility for carrying such important process is in the hands of people proven not only to be grossly inexperienced and incompetent, but also unqualified for the job.

“Everything they have done so far is inaccurate and the process opaque.”

Therefore, due to the obvious irregularities complained of, coupled with the obvious need for a credible census process and outcome that will engender popular trust, good governance and sustainable development, the SLPP recommended among other things, the following:

  1. That the unqualified, inefficient and incompetent management team at SSL be restricted to bring in competent, efficient and qualified team to handle the census process in a credible manner.
  2. That the cartographic map updating process should be revisited to ensure that every household is counted for in an appropriate Enumeration Area (EA) both within the Urban and Rural areas of Sierra Leone.
  3. To make use of qualified and trained staff and correct methodologies including community stakeholders involvement to ensure that a credible census is conducted.
  4. The appointment of the APC party executive and APC Apparatchiks as District Census Officers (DCOs) should be revisited to give way to the appointment of a credible cadre of qualified, non-partisan and technically competent personnel from across the country.

Statistics Sierra Leone could not mince words in their counter response to the IGR report on their activities. They referred to the report as “ridiculous counterfeit and extremely perilous, bearing the highest propensity to undermine the coming general elections.”

The IGR report, according to SSL, was an attack not only on the credibility of their institution, but also an unwarranted attack on those institutions that supervised the recruitment and mapping exercise, including the UNFPA, civil society organizations, political parties and other democratic institutions, all of whom have acclaimed the census exercise as being transparent, participatory and credible.

SSL explained that the Chairpersons of the various district councils presided over and confirmed the appointment of the Census Officers, most of whom the IGR report claimed are politically exposed. They intimated that the entire mapping exercise was done in consultation with the Paramount Chiefs, Section Chiefs and other traditional authorities, including stakeholders in their respective localities.

“The IGR report is a deliberate design to water down the widely appreciated work of SSL,” adding that the census exercise is carried out by experts who believe in doing the right thing.

The National Coordinator, Democracy Sierra Leone, told the media that the national census processes are not only transparent or participatory, but also inclusive, open and highly accountable.

Alhaji Waritay intimated that as members of the civil society belonging to the census technical committee, they had been following development on the activities of the census, the reason why they re in the authority to reveal their fact findings on the process.

He said SSL cannot do anything without the approval of the technical committee that comprises the UN family, like UNFPA World Bank and political parties.

Waritay explained that they have been monitoring the process down to the village level to know what Field Officers, Evaluators and Enumerators were doing.

Like all other political issues in the country, the media have also taken positions on the according to their political affiliations. While some are positive of the SSL, others are downright critical about the manner in which the entire census process is being handled.

Some ruling party politicians and operatives have also defended SSL in a straight-from-the-bottom-of-their-heart approach.

Asked about his view on the disproportionate number of the ruling party’s representation in the census process during a radio interview, the APC Party Spokesman, Alpha Khan, who doubles as Government’s official spokesman and Minister of Information and Communications, remarked that it was nothing strange.

He posited that it is the ruling APC party that has the majority representation in Parliament, and in all the districts in the country; therefore, the numbers speak for themselves.

Against the background of blistering quarrel over the management and handling of the 2015 census however, SSL has in strongest term declared that the conduct of the census will still go ahead as scheduled.

Briefing His Excellency the President, Ernest Bai Koroma at State House, the Director of Demographic and Social Statistics, Peter Bangura, who doubles as Census Field Operations Coordinator, noted that the 2015 census is not just designed to deepen democracy, peace and stability in the country, but also to provide information for proper planning and monitoring of Government’s development framework.

Peter Bangura told the President that they have completed field mapping and conducted first and second users’ conference, whilst the use of both provisional and final results of the census will be in March and December 2016 respectively. After the man data collection slated to take place from 5th – 18th December 2015, Bangura explained that a post enumeration survey will be conducted to measure its coverage rates and data quality.

On their progress, Bangura said 90 percent of mapping data has been digitized and ready for Enumeration Area maps preparation and printing; and cartographic field work, trained GIS and digitization, pilot census and enumeration report published among other activities concluded.

The census Director appealed to government to close the funding gap of US$300, 000; he furthered appealed to development partners to provide adequate road worthy vehicles for field monitoring.

In response, President Koroma urged SSL to continue on the path of transparency, ensuring that integrity is maintained in providing the figures and valuables that will help in planning for the socio-economic development of the country.

As a mark of approval, the President expressed satisfaction with the process and also insisted on inclusiveness. He assured SSL of government’s support and called on development partners to fulfill their pledges and new partners to provide support to bridge the funding gap.

The process of reversing the work of SSL for the December 2015 national population and housing census, by all the symptoms on the ground, seems preposterous.

SSL is deep down the road in the recruitment of Census Field Officers, Enumerators and other relevant staff members. The listing of successful applicants for those positions was recently concluded and interviews at advanced stages, if not already concluded.

The government and the ruling party, through His Excellency the President, has as would be expected, given the process a thumb’s up approval. The donor partners, that almost always decide our electoral conducts – UNFPA, World Bank, UNDP – among others, re quite visible and offering their significant technical expertise in the census preparation process.

Notwithstanding, the main opposition SLPP remains opposed to the process and considers it as one of the ruling party’s dirty tricks to manipulate the result of the 2016/2017 Parliamentary and Presidential elections.

Asked what they intend doing if the census goes ahead as planned, the former National Secretary General of SLPP, Jacob Jusu Saffa, said, they have other options to face the challenge. He could not elaborate further.

Therefore, the 2015 census seems more of mainstream partisan political gimmicks, than sound data collection and analysis exercise for development planning as usually obtains. Where the result will take this nation to is a point to ponder.

Editor’s note: This article is culled from News Watch Magazine Vol. 1 No. 1 December 2015 – February 2016 Edition. It is the hottest news magazine on the market for just Le20, 000. 00. Grab a copy now!

By George Khoryama

Stay with Sierra Express Media, for your trusted place in news!

© 2016, https:. All rights reserved.

Share With:
Rate This Article
No Comments

Leave A Comment