The Cabinet Secretary for Ministry of Interior and Co-ordination of National Security, Fred Matiang'i has ordered the closure of all bars and other entertainment joints this weekend for the census. This is meant to ensure that all people and especially men are at home for the exercise which is to kick off this Saturday of 24th August 2019 continue for the next seven days.
Census is an important exercise undertaken by governments for proper policy planning. Due to this, it is a requirement that every citizen participates in it without coercion. Every citizen should know that census has an impact on how the country is governed and should co-operate fully with the people carrying out the exercise.
The order by Cabinet Secretary that all bars and other entertainment joints be closed the whole weekend for purposes of the exercise is most baffling and uncalled for.
There are other effective ways of making citizens participate in census apart from denying them doing what they love doing. The reason given for the closure of the said joints is that most people will be at home for the exercise. There are many reasons which can make people stay away from their homes. For example, a person may be traveling. It is only in Mombasa-Nairobi Highway where I have heard there will be traffic roadblocks for night travelers to be counted. What about other busy roads? What if a person decides to spend the night in his workplace doing what he or she likes? Working.
The Cabinet Secretary should have given an order that employers release their employees who work in night shifts to be at home for the two nights of the weekend for the exercise. What if a person decides to spend the whole weekend in a church or other religious building seeking his/her God? A person can decide to roam around. In short, there are many reasons which can make a person be away from home at the time of the exercise.
The government should have engaged in a few strategies to make this exercise effective. We should have at least had civic education to educate people on the census. This way, people will understand why the census is being carried and why they need to participate effectively. Leaders like the Members of the County Assemblies should have engaged in this. Religious leaders are all very useful in civic education.
Our political leaders have been traversing the whole country, but their main agenda has been 2022 General Elections. I have not heard any talking about the importance of Kenyan 2019 Census. They should have at least have encouraged Kenyans to participate in the exercise. With the apathy brought by allegations that the exercise to select the enumerators and their supervisors was marred with corruption and nepotism, they should have dissuaded Kenyans from the same. Although corruption and nepotism are normalcy in Kenya, that should not make Kenyans stay away from the exercise.
Kenyans should be informed that they need to take personal responsibility for the exercise. This is a national exercise. They do not need bars and other entertainment joints to be closed for them to participate in the exercise. They need to know that the government needs to plan for its citizens, and it can only do so when it has the proper figures and statistics of its citizens.
In conclusion, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Co-ordination of Nation Security in Kenya, Fred Matiang’i got it wrong to think that bars and other entertainment joints keep Kenyans away from their homes.
Steve Muthembwa is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.