Tribe not mandatory in Kenya census

August 14, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 14 – Kenyans will not be forced to reveal their tribe during the upcoming national census, the government has assured.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics said on Friday that it was willing to keep the ethnic stratification statistics secret, if that is what it would cost to get Kenyans reveal their tribe.

The Director of Population and Statistics at the bureau Collins Opiyo ruled out the possibility of eliminating the question of one’s ethnicity in the census questionnaire, despite opposition from various groups and individual Kenyans. He maintained that the figures are crucial for proper planning.

“Tribe has a cultural dimension and that dimension impacts behaviour, which is directly related to population dynamics which in turn affects planning. If you want to plan for the people you need to know what determines those characteristics making the tribe aspect very important,” Mr Opiyo said.

Those opposed to this question say focusing on the ethnic distribution could polarise the country which is already deeply divided along tribal lines more. Many question the role the tribal card play in planning and resource distribution claiming that people should simply be classified as Kenyans despite their tribe. A cross sections of Kenyans have said they will not respond to that specific question.

Besides tribe, Kenyans will also be required to state their religion in the exercise that will take place on the night of August 24.

“It is important to answer all the questions in the questionnaire completely and truthfully,” he said.

Dr Opiyo defended the tribe question saying it is recommended by United Nations regulations and is a common practice all over the world including in the western nations.

“Where they may not call it tribe they have race and all of them are similar because it has the same statistical value,” he said.

Dr Opiyo spoke when he visited the Jamia Mosque to enlist support from Muslim leaders on creating awareness for the exercise.

The Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims Adan Wachu said the Muslim community supported the requirement on religion and tribes saying the figures were necessary. He warned that people should not add any suspicious interpretation to it.

“Tribe is simply for identification; it does not have any other connotation. We fully support that position and we need it,” Mr Wachu said.

Mr Wachu said the Council would accord the census team all the support to ensure that the exercise goes on well. He said a pilot census done in August last year Kenyans answered the question on tribe completely.

“When we did the analysis we realised that the information we got was sensible,” he said.

Kenyans will also be required to give details on accessibility of basic facilities like water, health, electricity and information technology.


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