The just-concluded population census in Kenya is generating political heat given that the figures will influence resource allocation, boundaries review and ethnic alliances ahead of the 2022 general election.
There has been intense mobilisation by some politicians of people to register in their rural counties to boost figures.
While a majority of politicians from across the country have insisted that the headcount meets the minimum threshold of credibility, it is feared that some figures could have been cooked. In the 2009 census, a dispute arose but the figures were upheld by the courts.
This year, the suspicions have been amplified by the arrest of government officials especially in northern Kenya, which is being closely watched, to see the kind of figures that will emerge. The region had the most contentious figures in the last count.
The 2009 controversy now casts a long shadow over the 2019 census in Mandera, Wajir and Garissa counties. State officials in the region have been accused of facilitating irregularities by inflating household numbers in their areas of jurisdiction. Chiefs and their assistants are on the spot over perceived inconsistencies.
In Wajir County, chiefs Musa Abdi (Khumbi location), Mr Khalif Sirat Farah (Habaswein Central) and his assistant Harret Maow were arrested last Monday for allegedly inflating household sizes in their locations aiming at increasing the population figure illegally.
Wajir County Commissioner Loyford Kibaara, while confirming the arrests, said that more chiefs would be arrested.
“We noticed that the number of households in their respective areas have increased tremendously compared to what was captured during mapping and pre-listing, which raises suspicions, and this is happening in many other locations,” he said.
Six other chiefs were nabbed on Tuesday in Wajir for a similar offence, bringing the total to nine. Three are from Wajir South, three from Eldas and another three from Wajir North. Preliminary investigations in the case of Wajir revealed a tremendous increase in households just a week after a pre-listing exercise.
“How do you explain a situation where a household has doubled or tripled just a week after doing the pre-listing?” posed Mr Kibaara. A security source revealed that politicians in the region have instructed chiefs and census officials to do anything possible to ensure that Kenyan Somalis are captured in their numbers to disprove the 2009 government stand.
“These chiefs benefit from politicians when it comes to contracts either from county governments, NG-CDF or even from MCAs’ offices and they have to serve their masters so that they continue winning contracts,” said our source.
He said another theory being pursued is the use of chiefs by politicians to sanitise malpractices.
“Anything coming from a chief looks credible and that is why they are targeted as possible vessels to inflate the figures,” he said. Already, chiefs engaging in this illegality have been assured of support by politicians in case of arrests and subsequent prosecutions according to our source. In Mandera, investigations were launched in Banisa and Mandera West Sub Counties after it emerged that chiefs could have manipulated the process.
“We received reports that were immediately investigated in areas within Banisa and Mandera West and nothing was proved but we have continued to closely observe the process,” said Mandera County Commissioner Onesmus Kyatha.
According to Mr Kyatha, chiefs are being influenced by politicians into manipulating the system that cannot easily be cracked.
“We have cases of politicians trying to get more numbers in their areas and have recruited chiefs but our message to chiefs is that they will be detected and a legal action taken,” he warned.
Mr Kyatha said the allegations from Banisa could not be verified immediately but the situation was being monitored. Mandera County Commissioner said chiefs have a role of mobilising residents in their locations to be counted. He warned that any contrary behaviour will be dealt with by the set laws.
Mandera was reported to have inflated the 2009 results by 40 per cent reporting a massaged figure that has been rewarding the county handsomely when it comes to sharing of government revenue.
Chiefs in these areas seem to have taken advantage of lack of adequate staff from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) to interfere with the process under the influence of politicians.
Mr Bashir Hussein, KNBS County Director, Mandera said it was difficult for anybody to inflate the numbers with the digital gadgets used in enumeration.
“We digitally captured the figures during mapping and pre-listing and any sort of manipulation will be easily identified,” he said. In Isiolo, five men among them an enumerator from Lagdera in Garissa County were arrested for enlisting residents of Eldera in Isiolo County.
The census official was arrested in the company of the four who are believed to have crossed over to collect lists of names of members of their community living on the Isiolo side to later feed their data as Garissa locals, Garbatulla Deputy County Commissioner Victor Kamonde told journalists in Isiolo town.
The five were charged in a Maua court in Meru County. The Sunday Nation has learnt that some of the households on the Isiolo-Samburu and Isiolo-Meru borders were being double enlisted by census officers from both sides.
Cases of locals barring enumerators from enlisting people in certain areas have also been reported.
The administrator asked residents to be wary of impostors masquerading as census officials and to report such cases to the police and local administrators for action to be taken.