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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Daily Nation:�- Opinion�|Somalis should not be harshly judged

Daily Nation:�- Opinion�|Somalis should not be harshly judged

Posted Saturday, September 4 2010 at 18:31
  • Census: Reasons given for cancelling results in the North are distasteful and insolent
This is not something peculiar to Somalis in Kenya. It happens in many countries all over the world. It is the norm in Sudan, Morocco, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Russia, China and Iraq among others.
In these countries, a section of a country’s population that is ethnically distinct from the rest has their numerical strength suppressed in national census. Tinkering with numbers of minorities is an age-old ritual of undemocratic governments.
The Sudan government estimates the population of the South to be half the figure the South government maintains as the correct figure. Morocco historically suppresses the population figures of the Sahrawi people.
The governments of Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq have a field day with the population of their Kurd citizens. The Kenyan government, when it comes to the Somali population, is in good company.
Historically, the true population of ethnic communities that aspired for separate statehood is a matter of national security. Governments suppress the population figures of such communities in absolute discretion.
The reasons advanced by Planning minister Wycliffe Oparanya for cancelling the census results are distasteful and insolent. They are so one-dimensional that I hope it is not a true reflection of his competence for the job he holds.
He insults our intelligence when he claims that elders refused to answer questions and, instead, forcefully grabbed the census documents and proceeded to fill in information.
Oparanya wants Kenyans to believe that, just for the census purposes, elderly Somalis in Northern Kenya have suddenly become literate. Don’t also fall for his remarks on the floor of the House that it is principally because the ratio of women to men was found to be 3 to 1 that government cancelled the results.
How can one take seriously a national census that states that Somalis outside North Eastern Province are a mere 70,000? Don’t we have triple that number just in Eastleigh?
It was an open secret for the past eight months that the Office of the President was uncomfortable with the census figure from the North. This matter was variously discussed by security agents and a decision reached that the lesser evil was to cancel the census figures.
All three presidents of Kenya since independence have played significant roles in shaping the destiny of the Somali community in the country. No one could really blame Jomo Kenyatta for the inability to forget the secession movement in the north of the country.
The Kenyatta government’s policy was that Somalis were not real citizens of Kenya. He showed this in actions and in deed. Daniel Moi was quite different. Despite his hawkish attitude as vice-president, as president, Moi turned full circle.
He embraced the community as Kenyans and integrated both the region and its inhabitants into mainstream Kenya. He greatly improved the education, social and economic status of the community.
Whether by design or default, the Office of the President has since 2003 engaged in activities that specifically target members of the Somali community. These include indiscriminate security raids, denial of identity cards and passports and state orchestrated xenophobic propaganda.
A year ago, the Office of the President ordered the provincial administration to tally the properties owned by the Somali community in major towns. The census cancellation is merely the other side of that coin.
(Taken From The Daily Nation)

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