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Why politicians want you to go upcountry during census

By Protus Onyango and Moses Nyamori | Aug 19th 2019 | 5 min read

The push to influence resource allocation, boundary review and 2022 political strategy are fuelling the campaign by politicians to rally people to go back to their areas of birth for census.

Governors and MPs are urging Kenyans to return to their rural areas to be counted during the National Population and Housing Census set for the night of August 24/25.

The county chiefs have their eyes on the billions that are allocated to the counties based on population size while MPs, especially those from small constituencies, are keen to shore up the numbers in their respective constituencies so that redrawing of boundaries doesn't affect them.

Council of Governors (CoG) chairman Wycliffe Oparanya has asked those living outside the western region to return home before August 24 to be counted.

The Kakamega governor rallied residents to make sure even babies born during the census are captured and urged parents from the region to appeal to their sons and daughters living in other towns to come home for the count.

“I have been a minister for Planning and I assure you population is key in determining how much money a region gets. We call upon our people to take this seriously as it will also give Luhyas a bargaining power in the 2022 elections,” said Oparanya. 

Muranga Senator Irungu Kang’ata said he was ready to offer transport to ensure Murang’a people are counted at home, arguing Mathioya and Kangema constituencies were at risk of being merged if they fail to meet the required population threshold.

“We are concerned. The future of the two constituencies hangs in the balance due to low population as they will likely be merged,” Kang’ata said. 

Mandera Senator Mohamed Mahamud wrote on August 1 to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) disputing the coding of the Somali community.

Mahamud took issue with enumerator’s instructions manual page 152 on codes claiming it included some sub-tribes that are not Somali.

“Under the Kenya Somali code 500, several tribes are listed. First of all, not all the sub-tribes listed under the code are Somali,” Mahamud protested.

However, KNBS Director General Zakary Mwangi said he is yet to receive the letter, but he defended the classification as solely driven by community and provincial administration. 

“It was them giving us the information that led to KNBS listing tribes based on the codes allocated. If any community is excluded, we will consult and make adjustments. We also verified the information collected with the National Government administrative office for concurrence,” Mwangi explained. 

Flawed 2009 census figures irregularly increased the population of Garissa, Mandera and Wajir counties by 708,777 and already claims are being made ahead of this week's exercise.  

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula claimed the Government had not conducted proper public participation and alleged a scheme to bungle it so that some forces can inflate numbers in certain areas while suppressing in others.

“We have walked census fraud before where they inflated numbers in some areas while depressing in others to influence how resources are shared,” said Wetang'ula.

Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi remarked: “In the past census, there are areas whose results were doctored and some fictitious figures presented, which cannot be explained. This time round, we must get it right."

Mudavadi asked government to guarantee security of the enumerators to enable them give accurate data. 

Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati called on traders not to open bars on the census day to ensure people return to their homes early in readiness for the exercise, saying the exercise will also prove the region's numerical strength ahead of 2022 General Election.

Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia supports the idea of locals going back to their original areas of birth, saying it will aid governors planning for service delivery.

“Population is a big issue in allocation of resources. Even the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) new formula is pegged on numbers. The bigger the population, the more the money. It is, therefore, for all our people to come back to their ‘homes’ to be counted,” said Kimemia.

He said even the World Bank has set parameters on population for counties to access loans from the institution.

Kericho Governor Prof Paul Chepkwony also called on those from his county to go back on the census’ dates.

“Population is a factor of resource allocation. Each wants a fair share of it,” Chepkwony said.

Mandera Governor Ali Roba said: “Census is a war on resources which is won by numbers. That is why all people should be counted to reflect the true population figures of all regions."

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho promised to hold a mobilisation exercise on Wednesday to rally his people to turn up for census.

“We have thousands of people working in Mombasa that we cater for daily from Kwale or Kilifi. They work here during the day, are served by my government, but go back to sleep in the neighbouring counties,” Joho said through his spokesperson Richard Chacha . 

ODM chairman John Mbadi asked KNBS to design their questionnaires for people to determine where they want their numbers reflected.

“I don’t support the idea of asking people to move to their rural homes, but there should be a provision in the questionnaire for people to state where their numbers should be reflected. For instance, when found in Nairobi on that day people should be allowed to state where their numbers should be reflected,” said Mbadi. 

Nyeri Town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri said the reason politicians are calling on their people to go back to their areas is because as much as many Kenyans stay in urban areas, the country uses rural areas to gauge whether it's getting development.

“Development is based on national resources, and resources are distributed according to numbers. So leaders will urge people to be registered where the numbers will affect resource allocation and (local) development,” Ngunjiri said.

Makueni MP Dan Maanzo said people should be counted where they are registered as voters.

“This exercise is going to affect constituencies which do not meet the required numerical threshold. Some may end up being combined because of the numbers,” Maanzo said.

Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju admitted that some politicians were desperate to shore up numbers in their areas to influence revenue allocations as well as for political bargaining.

Tuju said people should be counted where they live devoid of pressure from politicians for them to travel to their rural homes.

Central Organisation of Trade Union (Cotu) secretary general Francis Atwoli noted that population is a determinant factor when government allocates resources.

[Additional reporting by Roselyne Obala, Cyrus Ombati, Boniface Gikandi and Eric Lungai] 

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