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Kenya's population census results out

BUSINESS
By | August 31st 2010

By John Njiraini

The stark reality of Kenya’s ethnic affiliation has finally been laid bare amid concerns of its implications on a fragile nationhood.

In what might raise eyebrows and form the basis of political alliances ahead of 2012 General Election, the Kikuyu have been listed as the leading ethnic group, with a population of 6,622,576.

The Luhya are second largest, with a population of 5,338,666 according to the 2009 Population and Housing Census results released on Tuesday.

The Kalenjin, which according to the 1989 census were fourth, have now overtaken the Luo to position three, with a population of 4,987,328.

The Luo community occupies position four at 4,044,440.

The Kamba forms the fifth largest ethnic group, with a population of 3,893,137.

Kenyans of Somali origin are at position six at 2,385,572, followed by the Kisii at 2,205,669.

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The number of Kenyans with Somali origin was, however, nullified due to glaring inconsistencies in the growth of their population, which can be attributed to an influx of foreigners.

The Mijikenda and Meru, with 1,960,574 and 1,658,108, close the league of the country’s ethic groups with more than one million people.

The current population show the country’s five leading ethnic communities have increased by an average of two million over the past two decades when ethnic affiliation was last included in the census.

Though prior to the release of the results the issue on whether to include ethnicity in the census had raised a storm, it is bound to end debate on ethnic population growth that had centred on speculations that certain communities had significantly expanded since the last census was in 1999.

"There was a lot of debate on whether to include ethnicity in the census, but we have decided to be transparent," said Planning Minister Wycliffe Oparanya while releasing the results.

The figures are bound to have major political implications, as leaders seek to form alliances ahead of the General Election in 2012, with leaders from the five leading ethnic groups continuing to dominate the scene.

In contrast, the ethnic affiliation perspective could translate to a double-edged sword in pushing for national integration and cohesion.

The numbers could either help in fostering integration or further widen the tribal divisions and hatred, analysts say.

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