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Slow growth shatters tyranny of numbers myth in Mt Kenya

By Francis Ngige | November 5th 2019
Voting in the 2017 Genera Election. [File]

Kiambu is the only county in Mt Kenya region that registered significant population growth in the past 10 years, according to census results released yesterday.

In a region known for its dense population, the numbers released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) show population growth has slowed down, with the average numbers in a household also reducing or remaining static.

The numbers, according to the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census, which have already been disputed by some leaders from the region (see separate story), are likely to be used as a political tool in future elections going by the previous trends in the electoral cycle.

The census put the combined population of the region at 8,548,289 compared to 7,020,813 which was realised in 2009, translating to a growth of 21 per cent.

Previously, politicians have bandied numbers in their campaigns and the census result is likely to trigger more debate on the same.

In 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto controversially won the election in what was then described as “tyranny of numbers”, a phrase coined to show that their ethnic communities had the ‘numbers.’

Yesterday, some leaders like Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata observed that the ‘tyranny of numbers’ in the region was threatened by the population trend witnessed in the enumeration.

In the days leading to the census in August, political temperatures rose as leaders mobilised ‘their people’ to travel to upcountry for the national exercise.

Statistics given yesterday indicate that Tharaka Nithi County has the least growth in the region, only registering an increase of 27,847 in the last decade, closely followed by the agricultural-rich Nyandarua County which added 42,021 to its numbers.

The population census carried on the night of August 24 and 25 has given a clear picture of why the population in the region seems to be on a slow trend compared to the last two decades.

In the report handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House Nairobi yesterday, an average household in the region has three to four people compared to more than a decade ago when families had a minimum of five children.

Mt Kenya region comprises Nyeri, Nyandarua, Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Kiambu, Meru, Tharaka Nithi Embu and Laikipia counties.

Although the area has a smaller landmass, the population density per square kilometre outnumbers most of the regions in the country, a clear indication that land use is fully stretched.

In the case of Kiambu, the data shows cosmopolitan areas near Nairobi like Juja, Ruiru, Thika and Kiambu town as densely populated.

Due to its proximity to Nairobi, Kiambu has seen an influx of people working in the capital city reside in the county and commuting daily to their places of work.

In 2009, Kiambu had a population of 1,623,282 which has ballooned to  2,411,735, a 49 per cent increase, while Laikipia has seen its numbers grow to 518,560 from 399,227.

Following Tharaka Nithi in the least growth is Nyandarua County which has only realised a seven per cent population increase and Nyeri which has saw 759,164 people enumerated compared to 693,558.

The numbers

For 10 years, Kirinyaga has witnessed a population growth of 15 per cent with this year’s census showing its number standing at 610,411 from 528,054 in 2009.

In Meru where leaders were jittery about the numbers, KNBS indicated that a total of 1,545,714 were counted in August which was an increase of 189,413 people from the previous exercise.

In Embu, the statisticians found out that the population had grown by 18 per cent with this year’s census realising 608,599 from the 2009’s number of 516,212.

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