The census results published by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) on November 4 will be encountering its first legal hurdle after Tharaka-Nithi County government moved to court to challenge the population numbers.
In a suit filed on Friday on behalf of the county and the County Executive Committee member for planning, Dorothy Igoki Kinyua, Governor Muthomi Njuki’s administration states that the population figures published by KNBS “have glaring inconsistencies, and apparent errors that cannot be explained logically.”
The petition also queries the legality of the provisions of the Statistics (Amendment) Act, 2019 which allowed the Cabinet Secretary for Planning “to vary or cancel the results of official data that ranges from census to economic growth data and monthly inflation numbers.”
“This unilateral discretion gave the Cabinet Secretary power to cause any official statistical data collected, analysed and disseminated by the bureau to be cancelled, revised or adjusted.
"There is a real apprehension that these powers may have been in play, in order to make the results as contentious and non-satisfactory as they are unverifiable and inexact,” the county says in its pleadings filed before the Constitutional and Human Rights Division of the High Court.
Moreover, the petitioners also question KNBS’ decision to capture and transmit data electronically without manual back-up.
According to the county and its finance executive member, the electronic system of enumeration was not based in any law in Kenya, “and thus the normative and systematic framework was flawed when this novel exercise was unilaterally adopted by the 1st respondent (KNBS).”
“The said electronic process was conducted without a back-up manual system, thereby failing to insure the collected data against data manipulation and hacking. The 1st respondent trivialized this process by refusing to put necessary safeguards to ensure that the data collected is accurate and verifiable, considering the economic and political ramifications attached thereto. Ultimately, the census exercise has produced results that have glaring inconsistencies, and apparent errors that cannot be explained logically,” say the petitioners.
Even though there have been grumbling by some leaders about the population figures KNBS published in November, this petition by Tharaka Nithi County becomes the first official challenge of the census outcome.
In the 2019 results, the county was found to have a population of 393,177 people, a growth by 27,847 people only in 10 years from 365,330 in 2009 census.
Nationally, the population has grown to 47.6 million in 2019 up from 37.7 million in 2009.
As soon as the population figures were released, Governor Njuki and other Tharaka Nithi leaders questioned the results.
“These are wrong figures. We will petition the KNBS to review the whole exercise in our region in order to get the right population," Governor Njuki said back then in November 2019.
In the 2017 elections, the figures published by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) showed that the county had 213,154 registered voters. Going by the latest population figures, it means that the number of children and those who are not registered is lower than those who are registered.
In the petition, the county wants the court to issue orders to quash the results of the 2019 census exercise in relation to Tharaka Nithi County and a declaration that “the census exercise of 2019 fell short of the standard required under the law of Kenya.”
Specifically, they want the court to stop IEBC from relying on the latest census figures in carrying out the forthcoming delimitation of boundaries. They are also seeking similar orders against the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) “from making any recommendations on structuring or distribution of resources using the data of the 2019 census.”