Does census really count for anything?

Wednesday May 22 2019

By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
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We're barrelling towards a census. The kind that happens once in every 10 years, for many reasons that have been explained to us in great detail through our very efficient civic education programs that tell us many things about our rights, reproductive health and our fearless leaders, just to name a few. For one thing, it probably isn't easy to have a census as often as the Kenyan government would like. It would be great if the census could begin, perhaps, during voting, but unfortunately, not everyone shows up for voting – not because people aren't interested in voting, but, well, because people aren't interested in voting. Otherwise why would there be such slim pickings at voting stations every time we go to the ballot? Of course, when you show up at 7am and still wait for eight hours to vote, it doesn't seem like slim pickings, but in reality, just about a third of the citizens of Kenya actually chose Kenya's president. Go figure.

ASKED QUESTIONS

But back to the census. I don't know if you remember the last one that was held. I'm not old, but I have forgotten. Apparently they came round to all the houses in this great nation, and asked very important questions like, do you own a shamba, and, how many people sleep in this house every night. Again, I repeat, I was not asked these questions. Maybe I wasn't around. Or maybe I am not a Kenyan citizen. Or maybe they knew the data was going to go deep into the vaults of a ministry and never appear again, except across the horizontal heads who had to pull results out of some hole every time they needed to talk about the 'youth vote.' The only reason I know these questions is because I know someone who was asking them. We went to high school together. She says she was an agent in the census. So I believe her, even though I've never seen this data. To be fair, I haven't looked. To be fair...it doesn't really matter.

Why doesn't it matter? Because the government will take all this information and do nothing with it. If they were indeed planning on doing something with the information, like counting how many Kenyans there are and figuring out the easiest way to not starve Turkana every year, then they would have. But they haven't, have they.

STARVING CHILDREN

Kenya is entirely capable of feeding itself without China – sorry, our donors – every year, but somehow, we're still shown pictures of starving children on television. Every year. As if we don't know that it's coming. As if Kenyans for Kenya has to be every year, like Christmas. As if the food can't get to what our government clearly considers Not Kenya – but the Huduma Namba guys will get there, easy-peasy. In fact, here, have a Huduma Card, won't you, which is a value-add service to provide your data to yet another company that you don't know about and won't see again until five years from now in a Cambridge Analytica-like scandal.

I'll still answer those questions when those census guys come. Make no mistake, I'm proud to be Kenyan, and I'm proud to do something for Kenya and her people, even if an elite few of her people are doing absolutely nothing for us – sorry, me. And I might even be hopeful that the billions spent on the budget will have an effect on Kenyans, beyond paying the mediocre salaries of the agents, and padding up the bonuses of their bosses. Maybe after we count all the things we're supposed to count, then some miracle might happen. I'm just not sure what, exactly, the miracle is going to be, outside of incomplete data sheets and the magical disappearing act that indecent sums of money of seem to be able to perform in this country. Rambo Pambo Boom Boom!

Twitter: @AbigailArunga