— Opposition political parties say, call for rejection of the 2022 preliminary census result released by LISGIS,
The Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) in its preliminary results of the 2022 census ranked southeastern Liberia as the region that experienced the highest population growth.
The census results also placed the region among the most populous zones in the country -- something the Unity Party and a coalition of other opposition political parties have rejected --- saying the census lacks verifiable data and is a recipe for vote rigging.
The party without evidence is claiming that the Census data is meant to give the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) leverage in the ensuing 2023 presidential and legislative elections.
Three of the five counties in the Southeast experienced nearly a hundred percent increment in their population in 14 years. Grand Kru, the home county of the President, led the way with an 89% increment, followed by Grand Gedeh and River Gee both experiencing an 87% increment.
The Southeastern region, from whence President Weah hails, is his stronghold.
“Garbage in, Garbage out is the most appropriate means to describe the embarrassment being referred to as the preliminary census result,” the parties said at the press conference. “Whatever is being paraded by few people at LISGIS, and supported by their agent at UNFPA is nothing more than a conspiracy hatched against the will of the Liberian people.”
“Interestingly, we uncovered this plot long before they embarked on its implementation. A few months ago, we announced to the Liberian people that the CDC government was hatching a devilish plan to report an increase in the number of people in counties sympathetic to it and that these numbers may be used to justify the government's attempt to rig the 2023 elections.”
The veil on the plan, the parties noted, has been removed and every Liberian can now see for themselves “cooked numbers” being released by LISGIS as the representation of the population.
“Out of all the counties, Grand Kru, which is President Weah’s home county, recorded the highest percentage change in population growth (89%),” they said.
The provisional result of the 2022 Census released by LISGIS shows that the country’s population stands at 5.2 million, an increase of 50. 4 percent when compared with the 2008 census result, which was 3.5 million.
This represents a population gain of over 1.7 million people in the space of 14 years with urban growth up by 52 percent, while rural growth is down by 48 percent. The gain is being attributed to “natural” change, the surplus of births compared with deaths. In 2022, the rate for Liberia was 4 births per woman, a gradual decline from 6.7 births per woman in 1973.
While the full census results are anticipated in May, they may be comparable to the World Bank forecast of 5.3 million people in 2022 – an average annual growth rate of 2.56%.
However, the LISGIS census result is being criticized by many and may be subject to litigation. Census data provide the bedrock for other sources.
The quality and reliability of a nation’s demographic information is partly a reflection of the quality of the census, the parties noted, and that the “latest census was conducted in a sinister manner clouded by political interference.”
Without evidence, the parties noted, that the agents of the grand conspiracy want the public “to believe that the ‘push and pull’ factors that lead to migration or a concentration of population in a particular locality are very well present in the President’s home county.”
The Weah administration wants the public to believe that there exist basic social services and better economic activities in Grand Kru to attract many Liberians from other parts of the country, the parties said.
Grand Kru however is one of the remotest in Liberia as citizens of the county find it difficult to return home after moving to Monrovia. The roads are terrible, and there are no major economic activities in the county as it is also so with basic social services.
Weah won more than 90% of the votes in Grand Kru county during the 2017 general elections, and the latest increment would boost his numbers for the upcoming elections, critics believe. Grand Kru is also the home county of the Senate Pro tempore and the Deputy Speaker.
“Grand Kru has no university or any tertiary education facility. The county has just one government high school in its capital Barclayville. The LHDS 2022 puts the southeast as the region with the highest use of contraceptives in Liberia, Grand Kru county included.”
“If it is not voodoo, how can anyone with a straight face claim population increment in this county?” the opposition political parties asked.
Like Grand Kru, River Gee has a pocket of illegal mines that cannot host even “ten thousand inhabitants”, the parties said, and the majority of the occupants of the mines are in fact Ghanian and other aliens.
“The County has no viable economic activities, no tertiary education institution to attract residents to remain in the county after secondary education,” they said. “Like Grand Kru, the use of contraceptives is also higher. If it is not by fraudulent and malicious intents, how can LISGIS even imagine that such a population will increase by 87%?”
The same applies to Grand Gedeh County, where the Ivorian population as captured by LISGIS is 5,266, which indicates that the astronomical growth of the population cannot be attributed to migrants from the bordering country.
“One can only ask, where are the people coming from? Not from Liberia and certainly not from the neighboring country as indicated by the same census report,” the parties noted.
Meanwhile, one of the country’s leading opposition coalitions, the Collaborating Political parties was not part of the opposition parties led by the Unity Party to reject the census result.
Many see it incredibly strange that this is one of the few points on which all opposition political parties completely agree, yet the CPP, which is led by Alexander B. Cummings, is not a signatory to the statement.
The Daily Observer inquired with an official in the Unity Party, as well as an official in the CPP, about why Cummings or his party did not sign the statement and both sides basically accused the other.
The UP official said Cummings and the CPP were invited to the meetings leading up to the drafting of the statement, but could not be sure that Cummings agreed to participate. To the contrary, an official in the Cummings camp told the Daily Observer that there is no indication that Cummings or the CPP were invited to deliberate on the statement concerning the census.
Meanwhile, all attempts at conducting the population and housing census in Liberia since after the 2008 national census were beset with challenges, ranging from staffing and logistical shortages to corruption, political interference, and manipulation.
The process was also marred by enumerators' boycotts, alleged corruption, and negligence resulting in the firing of the LISGIS’ acting Director General and Deputy Director General for Statistics and Data Processing.
The political parties however noted that the census estimate is not only incorrect but that the LISGIS results are basically a reflection of the Weah administration’s tendencies to manipulate for political reasons as the 2023 presidential and legislative elections approach.