Kenya: Quality Concerns Hover Over Impending Census

18 January 2019

The August 2019 census might be seven months away, but politicians are already divided over its resultant effect on the county resource allocations.

Governors have already thrown in divergent views, with those from Mt Kenya calling for a foolproof census that they say will right the wrongs of the 2009 population headcount that was marred by controversies.

Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki told the Nation that in 2009 some regions were "allowed to just quote figures of children they had without any proof at all".

Mr Njuki said the census should be a confirmation of the data by the registrar of births, and that "no one should be listed if they do not have a birth certificate, the most basic form of identification and numbering of population in Kenya".

"We are not looking at this as an opportunity for us to get what is not ours. We are looking at it as a way to right the wrongs that were made in the 2009 census.

"Because you cannot use population census to favour some communities that are supposed to be politically correct to you, and you cannot punish people for being truthful about their number of children," Mr Njuki said.


Governor Njuki was reacting to claims by the Frontier Counties Development Council that they were targets of the census, with a view to "reduce our numbers."

Isiolo Woman Rep Rehema Dida famously coined the 'when they are in bars, we are in our bedrooms' phrase to support her stand that the household number in those counties was higher than those in other areas.

"We believe not even half of our population was counted in 2009. People are making threats that we are counting trees and other things," Mandera Governor Ali Roba told journalists in Nairobi.

But Mr Njuki wants the argument to be about getting the precise number of people in each county.

"What we are saying is remove interests from this process. Let us just have a family that has two children listed as two, with proof and those with nine listed as such. We have no problem. We just want verifiable data," Mr Njuki said.


The census will be conducted in August and is expected to cost Sh18.5 billion and employ over 200,000 personnel.

A total of Sh8 billion has been earmarked for personnel recruitment, training and allowances, with Sh3 billion set aside for smartphones fitted with special software.

In comparison, the 2009 census had 6,000 senior supervisors, 22,000 supervisors, 115,000 enumerators, 100,000 village elders and 45,000 security personnel.

The census and its resource allocation is a subject that has also been raised by Amani National Congress Musalia Mudavadi, who in a detailed New Year statement called for involvement of key stakeholders and the procurement of appropriate technology to ensure accuracy.

"Accurate census conducted transparently and with integrity shall ensure just and fair economic planning and development. A rigged census will continue to perpetuate the economic and political injustices," Mr Mudavadi said.


Mr Mudavadi described the census as both a legal and political process that must be done right, citing the 2009 census which he said was "a good example of a flawed and inconsistent process that left the county hanging on the cliff-top of uncertainty".

"In 2009, the Department of Planning 'nullified' census results in eight districts on the account that there were inconsistencies.

"The results of the census were in excess of about one million people from the estimated figure. The residents of the affected districts went to court.

"The court questioned the process. We therefore have been living and using a faulty population estimate," Mr Mudavadi said.

The census is expected to exorcise the demons of the 1999 and 2009 disputed results, which have been used for planning and resource-allocation policies, a perennial source of political disputes over perceived lopsidedness.


This first ever digital census using tablets that transmit data to a central database as they are captured in the field on census night, will eliminate human data entry.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics has already conducted a seven-day pilot census - between August 24-31, 2018 - in Kwale, Kilifi, Makueni, Nairobi, Nyeri, Tharaka Nithi, Mandera, Kericho, Busia, Kisumu, Kisii and West Pokot counties.

The results of the pilot will help plan the August exercise.

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