World Bulletin/News Desk
Although many Ivoirians – especially opposition sympathizers – are boycotting the country's ongoing population and housing census, the National Institute of Statistics (INS) appears unfazed, vowing to complete the process.
"We are aware some people are refusing to be counted for one reason or other, but that doesn't mean we will abandon such an important national obligation," INS Director Ibrahima Ba told Anadolu Agency.
Initially scheduled to take one month, the census will now run to the end of May, following calls by civil society associations and NGOs for a deadline extension to allow maximum participation.
The country's main opposition party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), has invited supporters to boycott the census, accusing the ruling Rally of the Republicans (RDR) party of planning to use the census findings to perpetrate massive voter fraud in next year's general elections.
"A population census is carried out every ten years in many countries. We have done so twice – in 1975 and 1988 – and nobody saw them being used for electoral fraud, which seems very illogical," Ba said.
Despite the challenges, which include logistical and administrative issues and hostility, about 67 percent of the total population has so far been counted, according to Ba.
Several census workers have reported hostile behavior from families, mostly in the hinterland, with some suspicious citizens unleashing dogs or hurling hot water on them.
"We have met hostile families and individuals who not only decline to be enrolled but assault us verbally and physically," Jean Yves Mobio, a 24-year-old census worker based in the western town of San Pedro, told AA.
"Some even tell us we are collaborating with the authorities to count and register the ethnic groups to be eliminated during crisis," he said.
The reference to "ethnic group" on the census questionnaire has already been met with objections by some local politicians, but the INS chief says it is necessary.
"It is part of the process of acquiring information on the characteristics of the population, which will together make up the demographic, economic and social data that will provide a basis for the country's official statistics," he said.
The authorities this week also acknowledged the existence of several logistical and administrative problems, mostly in remote localities, where a lack of electricity, good roads and internet have hampered the census, which is being carried out mainly by smartphones that instantly relay data to the INS base in Abidjan via the internet.
"We have had difficulties with locals and municipal authorities in these communities and so have agreed to use paper questionnaires instead of smartphones," Albert Mabri Toikeusse, planning and development minister, told reporters Thursday.
Meanwhile, leader of the opposition FPI party Pascal Affi N'guessan and his three top aides were summoned and questioned for ten hours by the gendarmerie's investigation unit on suspicions of inciting the public to boycott the census and to violence.
They have since been released, but observers say the damage has already been done, as most of those who have decided to boycott will not reverse their decision. Some have even expressed concern regarding the accuracy of the census in light of the boycott campaign.
Aka Sebastien, a lecturer of statistics and applied mathematics at Ivory Coast's University of Cocody in Abidjan, said the census may end up producing erroneous data.
"How can you get accurate or reliable figures when some people are not participating or are even hostile to census workers who approach their homes?" Aka asked.
But Ba said census workers had been trained on how to deal with such situations by writing "refused" in a column reserved for those who decline to be counted.
Ivory Coast's first general census in 1975 revealed a population of 6.7 million, while a second in 1988 put the population at 15 million.
However, according to World Bank figures, Ivory Coast's current population stands at 22 million, with six million in Abidjan – the country's commercial hub – alone.
Last Mod: 10 Mayıs 2014, 00:18