For the third time in the last few weeks, the Planning Minister Wycliff Oparanya postponed the release of the census results, citing mundane reasons such as the ‘principals’ not being briefed, detailed stats being finalised and lastly, the classification by the new districts taking too long.Oparanya gave the districts issue as the reason for the postponement to until after June, arguing that administrative boundaries for the new districts were being sorted out by Office of the President.
When many residents requested for postponement of the census because of the drought then ravaging arid and semi arid lands, he derisively rejected it. Similarly, Muslims’ appeal for delay until after Ramadhan fell on deaf ears. And now, there is no hurry after all for the outcome. He even rubbished concerns that the Interim Independent Boundaries Commission work would be delayed, saying that ‘they can do other work in their mandate until then’. He could have released the general data, such as the population for the whole country, and by provinces. The districts data could then come much later.
The naivete of the minister was astounding, and the reasons he cited for the delay is spurious and inadmissible. For a start, the so-called new districts, numbering some 254 by July last year, are not binding on him legally. The High Court ruled last year that legally there are only 46 districts. For most, the notice of intention to create them may have been gazetted but the 209 additional districts have yet to be approved by Parliament as required by law.More importantly, when filling the census forms, the majority of Kenyans did not know of the new districts and simply gave names of the greater districts they hailed from, such as Mandera, Nyeri or Mwingi. For instance, how many families from the greater Mwingi districts residing in other parts of the country would know that it has been split into seven districts in the past three years?
And who made the decision to postpone the results? The minister himself, acting in the best interests of the nation, or on advice from the ‘principals’? Would the minister have the guts to postpone the results indefinitely without approval of his bosses? I found his argument that he postponed the December 31 announcement because ‘the principals had not been briefed’ ridiculous. As a Government, one would have thought that the appropriate procedure is for him to table the results before the Cabinet for approval, and thereafter to Parliament. What would the good minister do if the ‘principals’ ‘expressed their reservations’ on the results or failed to agree? It is common knowledge that one principal is a proponent of ‘one man one vote’ but the other has yet to fondly express his love for that maxim. Ethnicity was a requirement in the census forms as the key tribes sought to exercise their muscle in the quest for more political power and resources.
What would happen if the ‘Principals’ found the numbers of their kinsfolk wanting? Many Kenyans not happy with ethnic profiling in the census forms simply stated their ethnic group as ‘Kenyans’. Others have for the first time taken a very keen interest in the census. What would happen, for instance, if Somalis in North Eastern became three million?The demographic data is eagerly awaited by many sectors of the economy whose long-term investment decisions are influenced by the data. For the business community, the population, its characteristics, their economic status, incomes, and age are more essential than the new administrative boundaries in which they now live.For NGOs and other development actors, they are likely to be operating on medium to long-term periods. Hence, data on new district units may not influence their work immediately. For all of them, however, the integrity of data is vital.
For the Government though, the delay would mean that realignments in resource allocations in the budget would not be necessary, at least this year. The impact on development planning and service delivery will also be delayed. The boundaries commission may have to use 1999 figures or wait at the risk of being irrelevant — their term would have expired. Agenda 4 reforms on addressing inequalities will also be deprived of current relevant data, or may even be delayed on the census excuse.The political dimension is also important for the rulers too; power is about perception and persuasion of might. Which region has a higher population, or stronger economic power is vital for their campaigns and resource allocations.The delay will also impact on the planned referendum as the Interim Independent Electoral Commission sets its registration targets on population figures.So, in whose interests is the honourable minister working?
By Billow Kerrow