The 2021 Midterm Population and Housing Census is set to commence on Thursday night, 9th December 2021.

APC, as things stand, are boycotting the Census and are also calling their members/supporters to boycott it. Consortium of Progressive Political Parties including NGC and Unity Party are similarly boycotting it and calling their members not to participate in the Midterm Census.

The upcoming Census is the first MID-TERM Census in the history of Sierra Leone. It will also be the first digital based census in the country. It’s highly highly funded, 70% funded by World Bank.

20,000 Tablets and 20,000 power banks are in place, with around 15,000 tablets already distributed to enumerators and supervisors across the country. The tablets are borrowed from the Republic of Kenya.

The digital system for the 2021 Midterm Census is sophisticated. It meets international standards. Modern technology and computer assisted systems are being used for the Census.

But what is the problem? Why is APC and other political parties worried whether sincerely or politically, fear of clash of political interest?

I will attempt to tell you why. And I will also attempt tell you why the government is hell-bent on having the Midterm Census. I am not a politician. Endeavour to read this article with open mind. All I will say here is the reality on the ground and summary of what political parties and political analysts have already said.

First, according to Statistics and Census Act, the President or the government has the power to call for Midterm Census. Midterm in this context means the midway between ten years.

The major issue with the whole process is the ULTIMATE GOAL of the Census. As explained by APC and other political parties, the issue is that the SLPP government wants to have the results of the Census, so they can use the results to create new DISTRICTS, CHIEFDOMS, CONSTITUENCIES, WARDS etc in the South-East (SLPP dominated areas) before the 2023 elections.

For instance, Panguma (which existed as a District before colonial amalgamation) in Kenema will be given its District status again ahead of the 2023 elections.This is just one.

According to reports, it’s probable that 3 new districts will be created in the South East. And APC which conducted the 2015 Census (which many have described as “unreflective” of the actual population in SL particularly the South-East) does not want such to happen (especially at a time close to election) as it may hugely hinder their (APC) success in the 2023 and subsequent elections as more district councils and constituencies in the South-East which give much political power (City Councils) to SLPP and more MPs to SLPP in Parliament will be created.

It is an open secret that the 2015 APC Census has issues. According to Statistics, the 2015 Census failed to specifically capture or designate the number of people who live in a particular locality of a chiefdom or a district. It only captured how many people live in Freetown but couldn’t tell, for instance, the specific number of people living in Lumley, Calaba Town, Hill Station and their demographic characteristics. And this hugely affected planning for development particularly for NGOs and international partners etc.

Also, it is argued that the North was overpopulated (which led to the recreation of Falaba & Kerene Districts in the name of reinstating old districts) and the South-East was categorically underpopulated. Many believe data were interfered with, and many have cited the mismatch between the 2015 Census and the 2018 election population outcome as an indication of such data manipulation.

Now to the other reasons given as to why the Census is untimely and unnecessary?

1️⃣ Census takes place in every ten years. The last Census was in 2015 and the next should be in 2025. Having a Census just 3 years and some months to 2025 (time for the usual ten year compulsory Census) is waste of resources and a recipe for ineffective work. The opposition believe such huge resources should not be poured on Census when after 3 to 4 years another real time will be conducted.

Government has given three major reasons for the Midterm Census, and one of those is to prepare for the 2025 Census. And the opposition are saying such huge resources should not be used now but reserved for the 2025 Census.

2️⃣ Others have argued that the Midterm of 2015-2025 should fall in 2020, and that has passed. So no Census should be held, eventhough COVID-19 was around in 2020. Many have considered this as a weak argument from the opposition.

3️⃣ Major reason cited by government for the Midterm Census is for planning and development. The question has been, how can you plan at a time closer to the end of your office tenure? Government long and midterm plans have been supposedly done based on the data available to the government at the start of their tenure.

If planning is the major reason for the Midterm Census, then the SLPP government should wait for the 2025 Census, many have also argued.

4️⃣ As stated by the EU Election Follow-Up Mission, it’s counterproductive to conduct Census at a time closer to general election as such Census has the tendency to lead to GERRYMANDERING which in turn interferes with the outcome of the conduct of a free fair and credible election.

Now, the Census is commencing on Thursday 9th December, 2021. APC, NGC, Unity Party, Adebayor (Mami Coss father and very influential news maker among the APC) and even Sara D Great are telling their followers to boycott the Census which the sitting government is determined to do (whether the opposition boycott it or not).

These confusing messages create undue tension. It generally affects the credibility and reliability of the data that will be collected and the outcome of the Midterm Census. It poses danger to Census field workers (Enumerators and Supervisors). It paints Sierra Leone in bad image to the outside world.

People have put politics over national interest. Isn’t our beloved country pitiful?

The Computer Assisted System that is being used for the Midterm Census is sober. The data collection system, which I have studied and thoroughly gone through, is more than just for a Census.

It’s more like a research, a well-designed system to capture the detailed information of structures (type, use etc) household and population characteristics (demographic, education, economic, living standard, disability etc) of people living in Sierra Leone. According to Statistics, it’s a modern system used by Ghana recently and by other African countries.

But politics will definitely probably rob the Midterm Census of its quality and good taste. Will it not?

I leave that to you.