Sierra Leone Deserves Credible & Transparent Census.

By Alie Kabba, SLPP Flagbearer Candidate….

The census is an important and necessary tool for development, if carried out properly without a hidden political agenda. For the 2015 census exercise, it is distressing that, after all the trauma that Sierra Leone has gone through, the APC government has effectively hijacked the process by gerrymandering the cartographic process and giving total data control to partisan political hacks. Nine (9) out of the 14 District Census Officers – who are custodian of all census materials, and control every aspect of data procurement and reporting to the Statistics secretariat – are active and militant APC members. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if the remaining five are APC sympathizers, too. This APC government has demonstrated over and over again that, for them, parochial party interest trumps politics.

It is a joke that none of the census management team at Statistics Sierra Leone has any training or experience whatsoever in statistics, demography, economics, mathematics or IT. How are you going to perform surgery if you have never been trained as a surgeon, let alone hold a scalpel? This is the sort of thing that causes our development partners to think of us as being profoundly unserious about rising out of the muck.

census_map I was hoping that the government would use this post-Ebola census exercise to bring the country together; to renew our commonality as one people, united in our determination to pull Sierra Leone from the bottom of Human Development Index.

Alas, it seems that this APC government has not yet graduated from its Balkanized view of the country.

The government has yet again done a disservice to the country, and attempted to threaten our national unity and cohesion by willfully choosing seven out of the eight members of the Census Management Team from the North. But we, Sierra Leoneans, will never again allow this APC to breed animosity among our people, by playing these petty divide-and-conquer psychological games with us. We should all stoutly resist these political machinations that appeal to our base instincts.

SLPP and the country should see what APC is cooking. They are clearly gearing to rig yet another election. If you consider all their census shenanigans, plus the fact that they just appointed as head of the national election commission a rabid APC activist, you will understand why APC is setting the stage to conduct daylight robbery at the polls, democracy and the country be damned. But we in SLPP will not allow this to happen!

After conducting a thorough study of all facets of the upcoming 2015 census, the Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) – an independent, not-for-profit public policy research organization that has gained massive credibility for its objective and nonpartisan analyses and data procurement – came to the conclusion that: “The process has been largely subverted and its technical content compromised for political and personal gain. In short, the census as presently planned may not support poverty reduction efforts in Sierra Leone and/or any other development initiative.”

I am exhorting all democracy-loving patriots to make their voices heard against this impending fraud. I ask all of us, SLPP chapters, regional organizations and individuals, as well as nonpartisan patriots, to inundate the government and our development partners with email, telephone and letter-writing campaigns, opposing the census plan in its present form, and for free, fair and credible elections. Let our voices be heard in unison: “We say hell no to a rigged census!!”

I implore our SLPP Parliamentarians and National Executive to oppose loudly and with passion this census fraud that APC is planning to perpetrate on the country.

We should demand that the census must be a truly inclusive and national effort, and not just another partisan ploy to divide our people and perpetuate one-party rule.

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We should not sit by idly while our democracy is yet again trifled with. We have a duty to speak out against this reckless behavior by the APC, or we wouldn’t be worthy of being the SLPP that gave the country independence and an inclusive democracy.

As a young man, I stood up against APC one-party dictatorship. I was unjustly imprisoned at Pademba Road Prison on the orders of late dictator Siaka Stevens. As if that was not enough, I was expelled from the University of Sierra Leone for my activism. That was in 1985. Today, thirty years later, I am back to lead the charge for a truly democratic Sierra Leone in which every voice matters and, yes, everyone is counted in a credible and transparent national census!

In spite of our challenges today, I still believe in a place called Sierra Leone. Let’s roll up our sleeves and make our beloved nation a shining light on the hilltop of Africa!!