Liberia: On 2nd Thoughts – Liberia’s Census Dilemma

The Liberian Government along with its international partners represented by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has announced yet again the postponement of the country’s pending population and housing census.

The announced postponement comes in the wake of corruption allegations at the Liberia’s Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), which has struggled to account for funds entrusted in its care for such purpose. The issue remains unresolved.

The announcement also comes on the heels of an aborted kick-start date owing to protests from trainers and participants for payment arrears as well as lack of logistics in some areas.

The government cannot afford not to conduct census this year as failing to do so would lead to a constitutional crisis, that might even affect the holding of the general and presidential elections scheduled for next year, 2023. Neither President Weah nor any of his lieutenants would want this and so it might now turn to its international partners for a soft landing on this.

Let it be noted that the census plays an integral part in the holding of the afford mentioned elections as redistricting is one of the key constitutional requirements under the law after every 10 years. The latter (redistricting) could be compromised but it remains to be seen.

The truth is, this is probably the six-time the country has postponed its population and housing census, even long after the world population was revealed sometime this year. As it stands, Liberia’s contribution to the world’s population is still unknown but reflected through an estimated figure that might now be proven during the pending census.

The last time Liberia ever conducted a population census was in 2008, about 14 years ago. The current census was due to take place in January 2018 but was deferred to March 2018. The postponement in March was due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, even before the coronavirus outbreak, the census had been postponed due to financial issues at LISGIS and it also needed more time. In June, the conduct of the census was again delayed.

Liberia’s most recent modern censuses were conducted in 1962, 1974, 1984, and 2008 and revealed how the population had increased differently beginning at 1.1 million, 1.5, 2.1, and 3.5 million, respectively.

As required by the constitution, population and housing census should be conducted after every 10 years. This is to enable proper allocations of resources; reapportionment; redistricting; and demographic data, which are the main reasons most civilized countries conduct censuses.

The government is now faced with a census dilemma, which has the propensity to even undermine the pending October 2023 general and presidential elections unless a national consensus is reached to address any stalemate that would emerge otherwise.

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