Boundary review next battle front after 2019 census

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Director General Zachary Mwangi during a press conference regarding the ongoing census on August 26, 2019. [David Njaaga,Standard]

Pending constituency boundary review, expected before 2022, could be the next political battle ground which might expose regional fault lines across the country.

The release of census results by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) now paves the way for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to review constituency boundaries.

A boundary review is expected before 2021, as the law requires the exercise to be completed a year before the next general election, which is in 2022.

Leaders from constituencies that did not meet the population threshold have been scheming on how to tackle the issues that are likely to cause political ripples across the country.

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Up to 27 constituencies could be abolished or their boundaries altered to conform to the population quota that stood at 133,000 people for rural constituencies in 2013. The figure is likely to go up going by the census results that show an increase in population.

Barring a constitutional amendment, the number of constituencies will remain 290, but the law requires a review every 10 years to ensure fairness in distribution of electoral areas in view of population changes.

In Mt Kenya region, seven constituencies are facing the chop, among them former President Mwai Kibaki’s Othaya, Tetu and Mukurweini. Also facing the same danger is Ndaragwa in Nyandarua and Mbeere North in Embu. Murang’a County has Mathioya and neighbouring Kangema constituencies.

Same predicament

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Other constituencies facing the same predicament include Lamu East, Lamu West, Mwatate, Wundanyi, Voi, Bura and Galole in the former coast region.

Also, Isiolo South, Kilome, Laisamis, North Horr and Saku in the former Eastern province may go. Others are Samburu East, Marakwet East, Keiyo North, Mogotio in the Rift Valley and Vihiga and Budalang’i in the former western region.

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The electoral body is expected use the 2019 census figures to arrive at a minimum quota for constituencies in rural areas and urban areas respectively. The urban population quota during the last review was set at 77,000 explaining why Nairobi’s constituencies rose from eight in 2007 to the current 17.

Yesterday, leaders vowed not to allow their constituencies to be touched during the review process. Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga said it would be unfortunate if constituencies are scrapped yet some counties feel they are underrepresented.

Kahiga said a lot of gerrymandering happened during the last review of constituencies that saw the likes of Nyeri denied two extra constituencies.

“The census results has vindicated our plea for two extra constituencies in Mathira and Kieni. So what we expect from IEBC is for these additional constituencies, not scrapping the ones that are in existence,” Kahiga said.

Lamu Woman Representative Ruweida Obbo disputed the census results, saying they would further marginalise the county by scrapping one constituency.

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Obbo described the results as ‘skewed’, saying the discrepancy could have been caused by ineffective coverage by the census team owing to insecurity and the fact that many people stay in farms in remote places such as Kwasasi and Vumbe while men go fishing at night. 

She also feared the scheduled opening of Lamu port was expected to come with increased population which would not be accounted for in the next 10 years.

Mbeere North MP Muriuki Njagagua said other factors should be considered while carrying out the delimitation of boundaries.

“Although we (the constituency) didn’t achieve the threshold, other factors such as being sparsely populated and a large geographical area, it still lies within the requirements IEBC had put for every constituency to avoid being scrapped or merged. Also considering growth of county population (over 600,000) there should even be an additional constituency,” said Njagagua.

Tetu MP James Gichuhi said he would not be willing to comment on the possibility of the constituency being scrapped or merged for failing to meet the population quota because he was disputing the figures released by KNBS.

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Gichuhi stated that in his opinion, figures were not practical or logical as the census in 2009 stated Tetu has a population of 78,320 people living in 21, 623 households while the 2019 figures are 80,453 with 24,139 households.

[Additional reporting by Joseph Muchiri and Lydiah Nyawira]

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KNBSKenya National Bureau of StatisticsZachary MwangiIEBC