Planning Minister Wycliffe Oparanya never strikes me as an astute professional who gets his sums right. He displays scanty regard for integrity of his numbers, and much less the inconsistency of his statements. The 2009 census exposed his general lack of diligence.
The North Eastern Province (NEP) and Somali numbers reveal the census results were anything but factual. The minister cancelled most of NEP results on grounds that the "rate of increase is higher than the population dynamics would support" and that the "age and sex profiles deviate from the norm". In simple terms, he stated the population increase in NEP was higher than the birth and death rates statistics, and that "men outnumbered women three times". The minister’s ignorance about this region drives him to make unwitty reference to birth and death statistics even as the household survey he published revealed that less than 10 per cent of women deliver in hospitals in that region due to very low coverage of health facilities. No hospital has cold room facilities in its mortuary, and with the relatively hot climate, the dead are immediately buried. Consequently, there are insignificant records of births and deaths to talk about.
The results he published do not reveal that men far out-number women. In all these districts, the ratio is indeed similar to that in other regions, and in the worst case it was 55 to 45. He also told the media 140 per cent increase in the population in NEP occurred because elderly residents refused to respond to the census questions for cultural reasons and "would instead grab the questionnaire and fill it in themselves" leading to inaccuracies. This is not true.
The same census revealed that about 90 per cent of the residents of the region is illiterate. How then could such people fill in the complicated census forms that even we professionals could not fill in by ourselves? Since all census officials in the region had security, how come no one was arrested for such violations? And since the chaos was widespread, why was not a single incident reported at the time, either in the media, or at the police stations? Who has since been arrested in the year-long investigation? Curiously, how did the clerks accept back the forms from the ‘unruly’ residents? And if it happened in NEP, could it not have occurred elsewhere too?
In his speech, the minister acknowledged "complex logistics for enumeration of pastoralists communities" among other things. Had the minister studied the results of previous census in the region, he would discover their population trends are dissimilar to the national pattern. For instance, population of NEP in 1979 census was 374,000. Ten years later in 1989, it decreased to 371,000 even as the national average rose by 35 per cent. And in 1999, it jumped to 962,000, almost 160 per cent. The Government never cancelled these results, and attributed it to the nomadic culture of the pastoralists. The results also put the Somali population, whom he derogatively refers to as "Kenyan Somali" at 2.3 million, the same as that of NEP. Where are the hundreds of thousands of Somalis who live in Nairobi, Mombasa, and other parts of Kenya? Did he find their high number unpalatable, and subsume them into one of the other Kenya tribes? Globally, census must promote participation by all the population. Protection of the integrity of the census data is also crucial for its credibility. As early as September last year, the media were awash with population numbers of Somalis, and how the Government was concerned about the huge increase in their population. This premature data release indicates motivation to manipulate the outcome of the census. There is need to independently audit the census results if we are to believe the circus by this minister.
(STANDARD MEDIA GROUP)