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Leaders mobilise locals to take part in census

Sunday August 11 2019

census

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani holds a press conference at Winsor in Nairobi on August 10, 2019, updating journalists on the forthcoming census. Legislators are urging people to take part in the exercise. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JOSEPH WANGUI
By JOSEPH WANGUI
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BENSON AYIENDA
By BENSON AYIENDA
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GRACE GITAU
By GRACE GITAU
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With the national census only two weeks away, politicians from several regions have heightened campaigns to mobilise residents to turn up in large numbers and participate in the exercise amid boycott calls in some regions.

At the centre of the mobilisation are the 2022 General Election, fears that a low turnout may hurt the chances of some regions getting their rightful share of the national cake and that some constituencies may be scrapped or merged for failing to meet the required threshold.

In Central Kenya, several leaders are criss-crossing the region urging residents to take part in the exercise set for the nights of August 24-25.

Mukurwe-ini MP Anthony Kiai has already started his own-sponsored civic education (themed ‘Simama uhesabiwe; save Mukurwe-ini') to raise awareness on the need to be counted.

He has also developed a network of mobilising residents living outside the constituency to travel back home for the tally.

AWARENESS

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Mr Kiai, like several other leaders from the region, is apprehensive that his constituency whose population stood at 85,000 during the 2009 census, risks being scrapped if it fails to meet the population threshold required by law.

After the 2009 census, the constituency, together with 26 others, were categorised as protected, a window which is set to lapse in 2022.

In Tharaka-Nithi County, local politicians have teamed up with government officials to mobilise locals.

Chuka-Igamba Ng’ombe MP Patrick Munene said the chiefs are using barazas to urge to participate in the exercise.

He called on the Kenya National Bureau of Statics (KNBS) to support the administration officers financially in carrying out intensive civic education.

“It is only in this government that there is no Ministry of Planning like it was during President Kibaki’s time. We need a fully-fledged Ministry for Planning and not a department.

"We have not heard government officers like (Interior) CS Fred Matiang’i talking about census like he did about the Huduma Namba. It is strange and begs questions,” Mr Munene said.

DEVELOPMENT

In Nyanza, Kisii Governor James Ongwae and his Nyamira counterpart John Nyagarama have intensified campaigns to sensitize residents to embrace the exercise so as to attract more funds from the National Treasury for regional development.

Mr Ongwae noted that the region is being underfunded because a majority of its residents did not participate in the 2009 population census.

"I believe we have a population of over three million people in Kisii County alone as opposed to the documented 1.5 million. This makes us lose a lot of resource allocation,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Mr Nyagarama, who told the public to fully participate in the census or risk losing out on national goodies.

He said there is nothing wrong with parents giving the correct number of their children during the exercise.

"I have always declared that I have 10 children and nothing happens to them. So, my appeal is for each individual in Nyamira and Kisii counties to be accounted for in the exercise, "he said.

Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni accused the government of failing to involve all stakeholders in rallying the public to participate in the exercise.

CONSULTATIONS

He lamented that besides failing to involve the political class, the government has also not educated Kenyans on why they should be counted.

“This is an exercise that requires more actors to get involved, and it is unfortunate that they have not bothered to involve the political class so that MPs can call upon their constituencies to participate. It needs the same approach the Huduma Namba [registration drive] was given,” said Mr Kioni, whose constituency is likely to be scrapped if it fails to meet the population quota as legally required.

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua and his Tetu counterpart Gichuhi Mwangi, while addressing gatherings in their constituencies, emphasised the need for their constituents living in the diaspora to return home for counting.

Mr Gachagua has particularly asked the clergy to assist in the campaigns. “We want the Church to help us in convincing our people to come home because that is the only way they [will] support development in their regions.

"We cannot have fair distribution of resources if we are all counted in the city,” he said.

ACCURACY

Nyeri MP Ngunjiri Wambugu noted that all political leaders in Nyeri County had laid out elaborate plans to ensure that the three protected constituencies in the county meet the requisite numbers to retain their status.

According to Mr Wambugu, Tetu, Othaya and Mukurwe-ini constituencies failed to meet the population criterion in the last review because the figures had been understated while those in the North Eastern counties had been exaggerated to favour the locals.

He insisted that they want biometric kits should be used to ensure accuracy.

Leaders in Nyeri are pushing for the creation of two extra constituencies out of the current Mathira and Kieni.

Senator Ephraim Maina says the Mount Kenya region was short-changed in the last review of constituencies nine years ago.

While the number of constituencies will still remain 290 as stipulated in the Constitution, any alteration to constitutional boundaries will greatly change the political matrix ahead of the 2022 elections.