Do not politicise upcoming census

What you need to know:

Historically, August 2014 saw the completion of the most recent national census, which was the nation’s fifth since Independence.

Uganda of late is preparing to carry out the most extensive census in its history, one that embraces the use of contemporary technologies.

The Census will take place from May 9 to May 19.

This will mark the culmination of events that began on December 12, 2023, when President Museveni launched the National Population Housing Census (NPHC) 2024.

The NPHC 2024’s overarching goal is to produce baseline data on the demographic and socio-economic features of the population, including age and sex distribution, age distribution, and spatial distribution.

From a wider angle, censuses are essential because they guarantee the availability of socioeconomic and demographic benchmarks for use in planning, evidence-based decision-making, policy creation, and programme assessment.

Historically, August 2014 saw the completion of the most recent national census, which was the nation’s fifth since Independence.

Even though, in my opinion, the long-awaited census D-Day is well underway, there appears to be a new dimension that is emerging from Ugandan public opinion that, if not handled thoughtfully and sensitively by stakeholders, could compromise the census’ processes and results. From my analysis, the current problem is an attempt to “politicise” the eagerly anticipated census process.

To reduce the worry to the level of the average person’s understanding of the issue at hand, a discussion on the value of having numbers against having a big share of the national cake has recently surfaced in the mainstream media and on social media! I am aware that to maintain economic equity and provide context, the government distributes the national budget using actual data gathered from conducted censuses.

In light of this, it seems that the topic has recently been misrepresented by some people as a strategy to campaign for numbers in the upcoming Census. While there have undoubtedly been other arguments made in favour of or against certain debates, the most recent example concerned whether Born Again Christians in Uganda ought to be counted separately or included in the mainstream religions which has heightened sentiments among the country’s religious denominations.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that recently, political campaign-style poster adverts akin to those from some church segments have begun to appear on various platforms, urging followers to select or check out a particular religious number!

While this is beneficial for publicity, it may also cause discontent throughout the rest of Uganda, moving away from a call for all residents to take part in the exercise and toward agitation on the part of individual interest groups.

This could lead to tribes, regions, districts, and even clans to mention but a few fabricating information provided to enumerators in an attempt to use high numbers as a political tool to compete for a larger portion of the country’s resources.

This would, therefore, call into question the validity of the census’ overall results, yet Uganda’s socio-economic progress depends critically on reliable statistics.

As a law-abiding citizen of Uganda, I would like to make a plea to my fellow citizens to view the impending Census process as something the government is doing for the benefit of all of us. Therefore, we should all work together to encourage everyone to take part without using factors like religion, tribe, or geography as a motivator. Together, as Ugandans, let’s contribute to the promising future of our country. For God and my Country.

JohnMary Vianney Ahumuza, PhD Candidate, University of Ghana,Legon.