Sierra Leone police detain opposition leaders ‘over census defiance’

Claudius Cole

“They want to increase voters in their strongholds ahead of next election” Claudius Cole

By Alpha Kamara

Three key opposition leaders have been detained by the Sierra Leone police. The three are eastern region chairlady of the All People’s Congress (APC) Party, Diana Konomanyi, publicity secretary Karmoh Kabba and Femi Claudius Cole, leader of the unity party and chairperson of the Coalition of Political Parties COPP.

The officials said Diana Konomanyi of the APC was invited for questioning over comments made regarding the ongoing census. Other opposition party members accompanied her to police headquarters in solidarity. Bail was later granted to Diana Konomayi and arrested Femi Claudius Cole, Karmoh Kabba and 15 others. The police has not yet addressed the public on the reason for the arrest. Few days ago, another opposition leader in the North was arrested for also defying the census.

Femi Claudius Cole earlier on radio defied the current census stressing, her party is against the census because the government wants to use it to increase votes in their strongholds ahead of the next elections.

“Opposition party MP’s protested the process in parliament, but the government went ahead with this illegality. They want to increase the number of people in their strongholds ahead of the next presidential election. That’s why we are as an opposition party we are resisting it,” she added.

Cole also said the allocated census budget of 19 million US dollars to finance it is unreasonable because the last 2015 census had only 3 percent error. “It’s unjustifiable to use 19 million USD to address a 3 percent error (2015 census) to conduct a new census when the next boundary delimitation will be held in 2024. That’s the game plan,” Cole added.

Few days ago, Sierra Leone’s deputy internal affairs minister Lawrence Leema threatened to arrest opposition party officials and their supporters who are opposed to the ongoing census. The controversial census started few days ago after World Bank withdrew its support due to technical issues and concerns the government failed to address. The government said it will fund the million dollars project singlehandedly. Sierra Leone usually conducts census in every 10 years. The last census was conducted in 2015 and the next one should have been held in 2025.

The process itself has been marred by several issues as census workers have been protesting for their pay in Kailahun district, east. In Bonthe district, south, dozens of workers also told Mountain Waves blog that they have still not received their payment. In other areas, faulty I pads and slow distribution of materials have been reported.

Sierra Leone police detain opposition leaders ‘over census defiance’
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