Later this year, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics is set to conduct a census as is required by the constitution, which stipulates that a national census must be conducted once in every 10 years; the last one was conducted in 2009.
As is expected, this critical exercise has already raised political temperatures, months before it kicks off, due to the socio-economic and political ramifications it carries along.
It is the results of this census which shall determine critical aspects of national planning such as sharing of national revenue as well as be a key factor in the upcoming electoral boundaries review.
But it is the thorny issue of the census results being used as a determinant in the sharing of resources between counties which has taken the centre stage. Two factions of politicians have emerged; those from the so-called marginalized counties and those from those so called privileged counties. And each group is advancing all manner of arguments, including questioning the method to be used for the census.
Whereas those from the ‘privileged’ counties want the census done using biometrics, their counterparts from Arid and Semi-Arid Areas want a manual count done.
Well, simple logic dictates that the best and most effective formula would be biometrics. So, one may ask, why are people from the ASALs opposed to this? Quite simple. It all dates back to the last census of 2009. Apart from being controversial and largely inaccurate, the 2009 count was largely manipulated in favour of the ASALs. Figures are said to have been astronomically manipulated to show that the Northern Frontier regions had almost double the number of people they actually had.
This thus explains the fear of the leaders from those regions. That a biometric count will reveal the discrepancies of the last census. Otherwise, how will a region explain having less people than ten years ago yet Kenya has a fast growing population?
The Northern Kenya leaders are thus scared of a truth moment. But should we sacrifice accurate national planning so as to massage the ego of those Northern Kenya leaders? A big no. Let the census be done using biometrics. Let us get the acccurate figures at whatever cost. Its critical for the sake of our future generations.
Interestingly, some of the ASAL leaders, well aware of what awaits them, have started advancing what I would consider crazy arguments to justify their machinations.
Yesterday, I heard Isiolo Women Rep trying to advance what I consider the most daft argument; that Northern Kenya has more people because men there are polygamous and thus there are more people per homestead than any other region. Question is, how many homesteads are there in those regions? Definitely way few than anywhere else in the country. Therefore, even if the homesteads were large, their total sum of people cannot be more than those of the densely populated areas where the homesteads are smaller but many times more than in from ASALs.
Let me demonstrate this using simple arithmetic. Assume a ward somewhere in Isiolo has 500 homesteads (most have fewer) each with 15 members. The total number of people there is 7500 people. On the other hand, take a ward in Kiambu with a minimum of 3000 homesteads (most have more) each with 4 people. The total number of people there is 12000 people! Therefore, there is no way that ward in Isiolo would have more people than the ward in Kiambu, whichever way you look at it.
And then, there is the formula of sharing national resources between counties which has become an elephant in the room. The current formula gives undue advantage to Northern counties on the basis of marginalization and land size despite those counties contributing very little to the very same kitty they get funding from. For example, what is the logic of Turkana getting 12 billion a year yet it contributes very little to the national kitty as compared to Kiambu getting 8 billion yet it contributes many more times to the national kitty than Turkana?
In simpler terms, some counties are living off the sweat of others and thats completely unfair.
And even if we were to argue that the Northern counties get more because they have been marginalized by previous regimes, does the imbalance have to be so much so that some counties end up paying for marginalization and injustices propagated by previous regimes?
What wrong did the people of Kirinyaga for example do to the people of Turkana so that they now have to pay for it?
We therefore need to come up with a formula which is fair enough so that, no county is living off the sweat of the other.
By the way, land size of counties should be the last consideration when it comes to the division of revenue. Population must be supreme. After all, it is not the land, trees etc which pay the taxes which are shared out. It is the people.