Kenyans want to know their numbers

Kenyans stayed indoors on August 24 last year to participate in the National Population and Housing Census knowing that the exercise was critical to the development of this nation.

The Sh8 billion exercise was dogged by controversy right from the beginning over the “tribe” question with some saying the question was insensitive, coming 18 months after more than 1,500 people were killed in ethnic violence after the 2007 general election.

Pundits now say this same question is the one that is holding the release of the provisional census results that was scheduled for December 31. Another date of January 7 was missed as the government decided to do away with provisional results, and instead complete a comprehensive tally.

Planning Minister Wycliffe Oparanya on Wednesday announced that they would not be releasing the results after all and they will only make public a comprehensive tally later this year.

Kenyans cannot buy the Minister’s excuse that “the government is currently implementing various important national activities which require more comprehensive information”. Is this a new fact that he didn’t know in August last year when he launched the exercise? Surely the minister owes Kenyans a believable explanation.

The tribe question was included in the survey to help the authorities plan well. What is the harm in telling Kenyans how many they are?

Is it true that the government is holding the census tally fearing that it will be misused by politicians and create rifts between communities? The final results of the last census in 1999 were never released for the same reasons. We surely do not need to go back to the habits of the old dark days.

In the past, there have been accusations that some communities have tried to rig the population numbers to get an undue advantage when it comes to the sharing of resources.

The issue of boundary review is still pending and will heavily benefit from the census results.

Delaying announcement of the results will not bring cohesion now or even later as most Kenyans are known to vote along ethnic lines during elections.  The government should focus on the main reason that makes Kenyans behave this way rather than withholding this crucial information.

Development partners and Kenyans in general need the interim census results to plan better on a range of issues including education, health as well as migration patterns.

Kenyans should therefore demand to be told how many they are.

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