The sixth national census in independent Kenya began on Saturday evening amid technology hiccups and apathy.
Data transmission hitches and delays in supply of vital tools to enumerators were reported in some parts of the country, cutting down the efficiency of the process.
Equally, Kenyans who had been asked to leave social places to be at their homes early could still be found in various recreational facilities.
In Nairobi, for instance, the spots were teeming with revellers long after the 5pm shutdown time recommended by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i last week.
This is even as President Uhuru Kenyatta rallied Kenyans to give maximum support to the process.
“I humbly ask all Kenyans to come out and be counted. Let’s fulfil what’s required of us,” said Mr Kenyatta.
He was speaking during the 60th anniversary of the Christ is The Answer (Citam) church in Karen, Nairobi, where he was accompanied by his deputy William Ruto and Dr Matiang’i.
“We need to know who you are and what you have. That way, we will be able to divide the resources that God has given us in an equitable manner to reach every citizen in this country,” said Mr Kenyatta.
Based on the headcount results, he said, the government will have facts to plan and ensure there are enough schools, hospitals, power connectivity and others “which can’t be done based on guesswork”.
During the event, presiding Bishop, Dr David Oginde, questioned the precedent set by Kenya in Africa by including the intersex as a third gender to be counted for the first time in the 2019 census.
Dr Oginde said although the clergy and Christians do not have a problem with enumerating the intersex, they were jittery as to the agenda, wondering whether Western countries may be behind it.
“We have no problem with the counting, but the agenda behind it is what we are questioning. We won’t allow the Western world to come and push us,” he said, amid applauds from the congregants.
The clergyman asked President Kenyatta to put his foot down and uphold Christian values, saying he had done it before when former US President Barack Obama visited the country.
“We were so proud when you hosted Mr Obama and when you were pushed to endorse things that shouldn’t exist, you said that they were non-issues,” said the bishop.
Making history as the first census to be conducted with the aid of technology, the census could perhaps be the first to see long-distance travellers counted on transit.
According to a directive from the Interior ministry to the Inspector-General of Police and regional commissioners, passengers in vehicles on transit between 6pm and 10pm yesterday had to be stopped at various roadblocks so that occupants could be counted.
Among the routes where counting of passengers was planned is the Nairobi-Mombasa one. Makueni County Commissioner Mohammed Maalim said on Wednesday that police would mount roadblocks in Mtito Andei, Emali and Salama townships.
“Motorists will be flagged down at the three roadblocks to see if they have been counted,” said Mr Mohammed. “Those who will not have taken part in the exercise will be required to fill the forms before they are allowed to proceed with the journeys.”
In Kisii County, there were hiccups in delivering vital supplies to census staff. Some officials in Bonchari constituency said there were delays in the delivery of some materials by evening.
An officer told the Sunday Nation that even marker pens and chalks were hardly coming by.
They accused government officials in charge of the exercise of sabotage over failure to give them adequate materials ahead of time.
“It is getting bumpy before even we begin, can you imagine a scenario where we are still requesting for marker pens hours to the commencement of the exercise? This is the scenario we are facing,” said a census official who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.
The concerns came even as Kisii Deputy County Commissioner Leonard Mjute warned that anybody out to sabotage the headcount will be liable to a jail term or pay punitive fines, or both.
“This is an exercise mandated by the constitution and no Kenyan can, on his volition, make himself unavailable when it begins,” said Mjute.
Usage of electronics caused a vulnerability that has seen a number of enumerators run afoul with the law. There is the enumerator in Nyamira who committed the gadget as a collateral in exchange for beer. The head of statistics in Nyamira, Mr Japhan Wachiali, said the officer had been interdicted.
In West Pokot County, a census content supervisor on Thursday lost gadgets given to him for the census.
Mr Adrian Kemai lost a tablet, a USB cable, an adaptor, a power bank, badge, reflector jacket and a bag. He had left them in a hardware at Siyoi Centre for the night.
Mr Kemai told the Nation that he had left the gadgets to charge overnight, only to discover in the morning that they had been stolen.
“The thieves took advantage of the heavy rains that fell the whole night. They broke into our hardware, stole the census equipment, a gas cylinder and some cash,” he said.
West Pokot County police commander Jackson Tumwet said police officers visited the area but are yet to arrest any culprit or to recover the stolen equipment.
Reporting by Elvis Ondieki, Anita Chepkoech, Ruth Mbula and Oscar Kakai.