Why politics, census are linked


Census data is a critical component in determining revenue allocation to counties. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Canadian educator Laurence Peter once said; “Speak when you are angry - and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret.”

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria may not regret now but he is bound to, ultimately. His utterances led to a series of reactions as well as re-igniting the debate of the upcoming census.

Other communities that were not happy with the MP attribute his remarks to a perceived advantage of presidency in development. Most people think political power is the gateway to development in their localities This isn’t true.

That may explain why Mr Kuria recanted his initial apology when he realised that members of his constituency loved what he had said.

My thesis is that political power benefits just a few people from the communities producing a leader, as well a few funders, while the majority are whipped to embrace identity politics. Some of the communities angered by Kuria’s utterances still saw his speech as insensitive to communities that were hitherto marginalised.

Unwittingly, a group of MPs revealed their secret long-term strategy for Kenya that they have been quietly implementing. The strategy entails ramping up their population. Indeed, at least two of them said that at the moment, their people are busy manufacturing the voting arsenals while birth rate in other communities is declining. Numbers, of course, don’t work without economic power.

Some of these communities are sensing a better future. The economic power that is often seen as an advantage to a community’s political dominance is tipping in favour of another community, at least from what I gathered from social media, which was corroborated by a leading economist.

From Eastleigh to all major cities and towns throughout the country, it is claimed that theproperty ownership landscape has changed. The MPs ended up inadvertently validating what other communities have been quietly saying about this strategy. Many marvel at how some communities have worked from the periphery into the centre of power.

That is perhaps why the MPs said that they only have a few years before they can mount a serious challenge for political leadership of this country.

Nothing wrong with this threat but it was the manner in which they gave the threats that infuriated many people.

What followed was an avalanche of unpalatable language on social media. This is the greatest concern whenever we embrace identity politics. This, however, has not stopped politicians from continuing with incitement of their communities.

What they don’t know is the fact that we have no mechanisms of dealing with misinformation in social media. We went through this in 2007/2008 when we experienced post-election violence.

We are at it again with what appears to be an emerging conflict surrounding the upcoming National Census. Politicians want to influence professionals to cook some population numbers.

This is not new. It was one of the major problems experienced with the 2009 Census in northern Kenya.

Census data is a critical component in determining revenue allocation to counties. Revenue allocation in the past was pegged on population density and levels of poverty but there is a raging debate on the revised formula as per the objectives set in the constitution.

In the new allocation based on the need to strengthen the link between the constitutional mandate of the counties and the intergovernmental fiscal transfer system too has the component of equitable share that is determined by population.

Counties that were previously getting a lot of resources based on land mass now see this new formulation as mischievous, hence the frenzied strategy of urging their people to populate Kenya. And in addition to traditional method of carrying out the census, there is need to encourage emerging technological methods that could constantly validate population all the time.