Opposition slams Sierra Leone Mid-Term Census results

Wednesday June 01 2022
People in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

People in Freetown, Sierra Leone. PHOTO | FILE


Provisional results from Sierra Leone’s Mid-Term Population and Housing Census (MTPHC) shows that the country’s population increased by six percent.

The data unveiled on Monday shows that the country’s population now stood at 7,541,641 in 2021, with an increase of 449,528 from the last census in 2015.

Officials of Statistics Sierra Leone (STATS SL) presented the results at a press briefing. They show that the female population of Sierra Leone is still higher than its male counterpart, comprising 3,716,263 males and 3,825,378 females, representing a sex ratio of 0.97 in favour of females.

The 2021 MTPHC was the first ever Mid-Term Census in Sierra Leone. It was also the first digital population census conducted in the country.

Statistician General and Chief Census Officer, Osman Sankoh, described the development as a “remarkable achievement” for Sierra Leone.

“Sierra Leone can now be proud of having conducted its first digital census, like a few other countries have done—Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Botswana,” Prof Sankoh said.


“It is good to see that Liberia, Nigeria and several others are now following us. We are a small country but we can also lead in Africa and we should be proud of this capacity God has given us as a country.”

However, the announcement attracted condemnations, with critics of the process, especially opposition politicians, questioning its legitimacy.

Some opposition parties, including the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC), had opposed the census, citing a number of concerns.

The APC conducted the last census in 2015, while it was in power. That process was criticised by the current governing Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) as flawed, which formed the basis of conducting the 2021 MTPHC.

The APC issued a statement urging its supporters not to participate in the process. As a result, many enumerators were chased away in opposition dominated regions of the country with reports saying some were physically attacked as they sought to collect census data.

This may have affected the outcome of the census.

Data shows that out of the five regions of the country, three traditionally known to be APC-dominated regions (northeast, northwest and western area), recorded a reduction in their populations from the last census, while the east and southern regions, traditional strongholds of the SLPP, recorded a growth in their population.

While the northern region recorded the highest population of 2,508,201 in the 2015 census, the new data reveals that the eastern region now has the highest population at 1,939,122.

An even bigger surprise is the huge reduction in the population of the Western Area (the capital city Freetown and its environs), which stands at fourth place with a total population of 1,268,757.

Freetown Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyer questioned the logic behind this. It had a population of 1,055,964 in 2015, and according to the new data its population has reduced almost by half, to 606,701.

“Freetown is experiencing unprecedented rural-urban migration, with increased informal settlements and significant overcrowding straining service delivery,” the Mayor lamented in a tweet.

“Freetown City Council property rate database has more than 107,000 houses, excluding slums. [It is] incredulous to see claim that the city’s population (WAU) has almost halved,” she added.

A spokesman for the statistical agency said they will address all queries during subsequent public engagement on the provisional results.

But it appears that the agency anticipated these questions, as noted in Prof Sankoh’s statement during the presentation ceremony. He said that the results showed the population as it was on census night.

According to the Statistician General, some people moved to their towns and villages to be counted during the census, a phenomenon he described as “the influential one night in-country census migration”.

“It should therefore not be surprising that a city like Freetown lost most of its people to the influential one night in-country census migration. They travelled to villages, slept there on the census night and returned the following day. They were never counted in Freetown,” Prof Sankoh said.

He added that chiefdoms, districts and collectively regions that are more successful in sensitising their communities to spend the census night in their areas would have more people reported in any census.