In August, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) is to carry out the extended 2012 Uganda Housing and Population Census. This national exercise is likely to draw a lot of social, political and economic interests from members of the population. Inversely, it is also expected to attract some controversies given the nature of the sensitivity of the census.
This exercise has often remained intractable in Africa. As a basis for national planning and policy implementation for the country, census plays a crucial role in determining resource distributions and allocations.
The above role in itself has attracted some sections of the population to try to manipulate the process of census taking by inflating figures in a bid to reap from the benefits census statistics may bring.
Past experiences have shown that some people do inflate statistical figures to among other reasons, try to gain an unfair share of new electoral constituencies driven by political, economic and cultural motives. The anomaly in statistical figures often manifests in “serious inconsistencies” in growth rates and unexplained age and sex ratios resulting in unscientific population growths.
This is not far from what happened in the Kenyan 2009 population census, where results showed that the statistics was inflated by one million people - according to revised post-count figures tabled in the Kenyan Parliament.
This led to the adjustments of the census results released in 2010 from 38.6 million to 37 million. The anomalies were discovered in Mandera East constituency which had exceeded its population by 174,710, Mandera Central by 166,027, Turkana North by 100,000 and Mandera West by 108,675.
Ubos in its previous census (2002 Population and Housing Census) did encounter anomalies in statistical figures after a post – census revision of statistics was carried out in Kotido District.
This followed objections from some members of the public over the “suspicious” population figures of the district. Indeed, it was found out that the population for the district had been inflated. Consequently, the statistics for Kotido was adjusted downwards from 591,889 to 377,102 people leading to the population growth of the country being adjusted to 24.2 million as of September 2002.
If not strictly checked, these falsifications of figures lead to misrepresentation of statistical facts which do not only impact negatively on the overall census results, but also in the planning and implementation process undertaken by the government.
This means that as a body mandated by the Act of Parliament to conduct census and other statistical exercises for national planning, Ubos will have to perform their duty whilst guarding against such intervening variables. They should anticipate the anomalies and find ways of effectively curbing them.
It will enable the government appropriately appraise the past, accurately describe the present and estimate the future in its planning endeavours.
Another important thing is, considering the volatility of ethnicity. A basic example would be to imagine 2012 Census enumerators in a region like Bunyoro trying to ask from the questionnaires about the tribes of the respondents.
This region was in the recent past embroilled in animosity raised by tribal sentiments between settled immigrants and the natives.
If not well handled, the census exercise may rekindle such sentiments. Some of the respondents in Kenya raised issues of ethnicity during the 2009 census, in a country that was just recovering from the post election mayhem, where ethnicity played a major role.
It ismportant to consider preparing the right mind of the citizens so as to clear prejudices that may be held. In this, respondents should be reassured that the information they supply during enumeration will not be used to their disadvantage.
Mr Mundua, lecturer of Media Studies Bayan University College,Middle East.