Billow Kerrow: Statistics tell a Different Story in Demand for Constituencies - The Nation

Some MPs have called for a review of constituency boundaries, particularly in Central Province, as they believe their region is under represented in the House. They believe that North Eastern Province, for example, is “over-represented”.

Yet it is the possibility that a parliamentary system may be adopted soon, coupled with the exigencies of the CDF funds that has, by and large, informed their enthusiasm.

In a participatory democracy such as ours, inclusiveness is through the electoral process in which political power is apportioned among constituencies to ensure free and fair elections.

According to the current Constitution, the size of population cannot be the sole determinant for creating constituencies.

POPULATION DENSITY, GEOGRAPHICAL features and communication network, among others, count in delimitation. This happens in Australia, Japan, UK and India, resulting in sparsely populated rural areas and towns having more MPs.

Yet, even on the basis of population, Central Kenya does not merit additional constituencies. Population density is to a large extent determined by the level of economic opportunities, which in turn is predicated on socio-economic development.

If, for instance, North Eastern had tarmac roads, electricity, piped water, quality schools, irrigated farms, modern livestock industries, mines and more public funds voted for it, half the Kenyan population would move there.

It is opportunities that attract people, not just the environment. That’s why places such as Dubai and other desert countries attract large investments and settlement. As it is, many residents of northern Kenya migrate to other parts because of poor livelihood.

Mandera Central constituency in North Eastern Province is 11,600 square kilometres, roughly the size of Central Province which is 13,000. It is divided into seven divisions with 32 locations and 46 sub-locations. The population is 147,000 whilst registered voters are 41,000. Poverty index is 70 per cent and communication is Stone Age.

Wajir South has 127,000 people in a vast area of 21,000 square kilometres, nearly twice that of Central Kenya. Compare this to Kipipri with 98,000 people in 544 square kilometres, or Kangema with 81,000 people living on 260 square kilometres.

Most constituencies in Central have similar statistics based on 2005 population projections by the ECK.

Indeed, Central Kenya has relatively lower average population per constituency/MP at 139,000 than all the other provinces except North Eastern. Coast ties with Central. Even the average population per MP in North Eastern is only a little lower at 131,000.

The rest of the regions range between 142,000 and 344,000 people.

When we look at the average geographical size of constituencies, Central’s is only 456 square kilometres, compared to 11,700 for North Eastern, 4,000 for Coast and 3,700 for Rift Valley.

Thus an MP in Central Kenya does only 456 square kilometres to meet 139,000 constituents while his counterpart in Rift Valley covers 3,700 to meet 171,000 constituents.

Indeed, people in North Eastern, Rift Valley, Coast, and Eastern may as well demand a ceiling on the geographical size of their constituencies. The level of political representation has a direct correlation to the allocation of resources, and consequently the level of poverty.

CLEARLY, CENTRAL KENYA DID benefit from the adequate representation it had over the years, compared to other regions. The appalling inequality is testimony enough.

Poverty index in North Eastern averages 70 per cent, Coast 61 and Eastern 58 as compared to Central’s 31 per cent. We cannot marginalise parts of our country and claim they do not deserve representation because they are depopulated.

For arid areas, an MP struggles more to seek development of roads, schools, health centres, water and food, in addition to dealing with mundane issues of impoverished constituents.

When the MP travels home, residents line up with more demands. In Central Kenya, residents do not even bother to meet their MP as they are often busy on their farms and businesses. Central is more represented in Parliament, the pitched voices of its leaders not withstanding.

Mr Kerrow is a former MP for Mandera Central.

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