The proposed Mid-Term Census already tabled before parliament could reduce electoral constituencies in the north of the country if approved. It is clear from the outset that government has an ulterior motive evidenced by its desperate move to see the census passed almost immediately.
The move to reduce population in the north is for SLPP to have a smooth ride in the 2022 and 2023 local council elections. Quite recently, PAOPA Government embarked on subtle depopulation tactics in the north through conflicts, killings and closing down of mines. The main objective is to have more constituencies in the southeast.
One of the subtle ways was to create hardship in the north so that the people could migrate to south eastern communities to swell the population there. It is a well-established fact that the search for fortune elsewhere is the main reason that compels people to migrate from one place to another.
In 2018, New Direction Government wasted no time in terminating a mining licence of one of the biggest Iron Ore miners in Sierra Leone, SL Mining Company. The export of the Ore to other countries was also stopped by the Bio administration.
Government said the contract under which SL Mining was mining the Marampa Blue was flawed. Marampa Blue is the popular name of the Ore in Lunsar community in the Marampa Chiefdom.
As mining stopped, a lot of youths especially young miners left too. Lunsar which was densely populated during the mining boom became sparsely inhabited.
The youths had left to seek fortune elsewhere. Even essential services especially the provision of electricity dropped. Lunsar which shone brightly during the existence of SL mining became one of the darkest communities when the company departed.
Hardship crept in, and there is now definitely less population in Lunsar community. No one expects large population in a community plagued by extreme poverty. The hardship in Lunsar community generated contemporary enemies ready to hit at close range.
Indeed, Lunsar youths hit at close range when Paramount Chief Koblo Queen was chased out of the town owing to allegations of connivance with government to shut down the mines.
The reprisals were terrible. Military instead of police officers were deployed in Lunsar community. Indiscriminate arrests followed, and those arrested are still behind bars. Little hope exists as to whether those arrested would see the light of day.
The spill-over effect of the Lunsar crisis was also seen in Portloko the North-western headquaters. Workers who once stayed in PortLoko during the mining boom also left. Apart from closing down mines in the opposition strongholds, the New Direction Government would hardly take aid to communities in the northern region.
When food and other condiments were distributed at the height of the COVID-19, the north-eastern headquaters of Makeni and other communities were left out. The discrimination did not go down well with the northerners. Another clear depopulation tactics by the PAOPA government was seen in the campaign of terror, brutality and killings carried out in the northern part of Sierra Leone.
Immediately PAOPA Government was ushered into governance in 2018, it embarked on a campaign of ruthless killings in the north.
Tonkolili saw the first terror campaign by security operatives under the command of PAOPA Government. The terror unleashed to peaceful and law abiding citizens in that part of the country was enveloped in a raid for drugs notably Canabis. It was definitely no easy moment for the people of Tonkolili.
Another wave of state-triggered violence also occurred in the Western-rural fishing town of Tombo where fishermen were illegally stopped from fishing.
Since fishing is the people’s main source of livelihood, they resisted government action. Security forces were also sent to terrorise the people. In June the previous year, Makeni also saw bloodbath when youths resisted the transfer of a 1.65KVA generator from Makeni to Lungi.
Official figures put the number of those killed to six while other accounts suggested a figure higher than that number. The brutal killings were also followed by a flurry of arrests of Makeni youths who are still languishing in prison to date.
After the killings, Makeni for months was a place not worth going into.
A lot of residents also migrated from Makeni to other communities where they could enjoy peace and quietness.
Back to Freetown; in April 29, the previous year, over 30 inmates were gunned down.
Government officials said the killings were done to prevent an attempted jail break.
In all of these unlawful killings, South and east remained peaceful and mining activities go on.
Nobody has ever been killed either in Bo or Kenema by government officials, and other communities in the south and east.
Mining companies in the south-eastern region in Sierra Leone were never shut down.
The companies are allowed to run in full-wing without interruption.
Rutile and diamond miners, Rutile Company and Koidu Holdings respectively are also in action.
As mining flourishes, more residents migrated to the south-eastern communities to add to the population there.
Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) members who now form the government were quite unhappy about the emergence of new constituencies in the north.
Northern Region, before this time, had only five districts as against south-east region which have seven.
The emergence of the two districts has placed the regions at par, but the north has more constituencies.
More constituencies in the north means more northern parliamentarians, a situation that weakens PAOPA’s presidential powers.
The situation in the north is a move the New Direction Government wanted to emulate so that new constituencies could emerge in the south/east.
SLPP membership is of firm conviction that population in the north at that time was not sufficient to have new constituencies.
Despite the cost, the New Direction seems obsessed with seeking parliamentary approval first so that the census could be conducted.
Last week, parliamentarians were at each other’s throat over the controversial Mid-Term Census bill.
Government wanted to employ PAOPA tactics to get the bill passed into law while opposition parties put on stiff resistance. The tumultuous situation negatively portrayed the country.
The hulabaloo has been attributed to the over-ambition of government to get the bill approved.
It is hoped that with the passage of the Mid-Term Census there was going to be tough battle for APC to take back constituencies which might have been taken away from them.
Grassroot supporters of APC are calling on party leadership not to ever keep silent in parliament.
The membership has made it clear that they would hardly accept a law that would come after them in the near future.
A report seen by this newspaper suggests that the field work of the cartography exercise is yet to commence.
The killings, terror and campaign of brutality has instilled confidence in the PAOPA Government that population in the north has been considerably reduced.
Members, supporters and the public call on the main opposition and other opposition parties to resist the Mid-Term Census which they say is a bad law with sinister consequences.