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Why counties took census row to court

By Nzau Musau | December 15th 2019 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Counties and constituencies of the former North Eastern Province have launched a legal battle to open up this year’s census servers, with a view to invalidate announced figures.

In a battle reminiscent of the 2009 one, 18 constituencies and three counties are drawing up separate suits challenging the results.

The sum of their disparate arguments is that the government is suppressing their numbers.

Already, a flood of demand letters, all riding on Article 35 of the Constitution, have descended on the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) offices, making categorical demands.

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Outright theft

Among the demands placed on KNBS is the securing of all tablets used to enumerate and transmit the results, copies of serial numbers of the tablets, list and number of all enumerators in contested areas and details of the company contracted to provide their softwares.

They have also demanded for copies of opening reports of all tablets, copies of daily transmission reports, copies of exit reports, certificates of successful transmissions and audit reports for each tablet.

And in what mirrors the NASA demands in the presidential election petition of 2017, the constituencies are also demanding copies of all log-ins from the database, copies of archive log files and copies of backups.

Demand notice

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“You only need to look at the numbers of a place like Lagdera and you will begin to come to terms with outright theft of population by its own government,” Adan Mohamed, former Mandera Central MP who is also involved in the suit, said.

In Lagdera, the official figures released by KNBS last month show there are 50,315 persons, a decline of 42,321 from the 92,636 of 2009.

In the demand notice seen by Sunday Standard, Lagdera claims its actual population, compiled through parallel tallying by the elders is 228,093, a variance of 177,778.

“It is inexplicable that an area with higher household sizes and higher birth rates would record such a decline in population. The numbers cannot be statistically explained or justified against the available data,” the demand letter states.

They say Lagdera seems to have suffered double jeopardy because the government had in 2010 canceled its 2009 figures because it had been undercounted.

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National cake

Lawyers handling the petitions said the numbers released do not tally with successive demographic and health surveys which show populations in these areas growing exponentially.

They claim the 2019 census was conducted “against the backdrop of sustained campaign and effort to suppress enumerated census results” for these areas to deny them their share of the national cake.

In the 2009 Census, the state cancelled results for eight districts -- Lagdera, Wajir East, Mandera Central, Mandera East, Mandera West, Turkana Central, Turkana North and Turkana South. Aggrieved, the residents moved to court and quashed the cancellation.

Consequently, the government was barred from using projected figures in these areas in national planning and distribution of resources at the expense of the canceled figures.

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