The 1999 decennial census error is here with us again: Francis Tome

As much as the public appreciates the fact that the administration of a decennial National Population and Housing Census is an astronomical as well as a complex undertaking, the Government has an obligation to ensure that the census outcome is made public within a reasonable time frame. Already, the Government has postponed for the second time, in a week, the release of the 2009 population census amid growing speculation that the ethnic statistical data so generated may have been cooked. This is quite unfortunate considering the fact that ours is a country where tribal politicians advance their selfish interests by regarding their tribes as vehicles of symbolic expression.

Startling as this census information may be, it was not entirely unexpected. Just before the end of the 2009 census exercise, a senior Government official at the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), exuded confidence over the reliability and validity of the statistical data that was to be generated. In his own words “the best scientific methods had been employed in the enumeration process” even though there was prima facie evidence that the whole exercise had become a cropper.

Now, reports emerging from sections of the mainstream media confirm that in spite of the serious consequence of a census on our country`s domestic policy planning, little if any, was done to insulate the exercise from all sorts of errors; deliberate or not.

Of much concern is the possibility of existence of vested interests at the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). I hear that this interest revolves around a community’s loins and coins. A community gets as much coins as is the activeness of its members` loins. But not to worry, if your loins cannot give you the coins you desire as a community, you can hire a technocrat at CBS to manipulate statistical data in your communities favor. This is because the more populous you are as a community the better your chances of electing one of your own to state house and so is your chance of “eating” the National cake enhanced.

Seriously, if this is true, then it portends gloom for this country. This must surely be the arithmetic of a cabal intent to hide behind ethnic numbers to engage in gerrymandering. It is part of wider, more elaborate and most odious scheme to create fiefdoms otherwise referred to as constituencies.

And that is not the only thing. I hear that the poverty indexes to have been tampered with as well if only to ensure more devolved funds flow into the said fiefdoms.

It is because of this reason that the allegations of “errors in content”, which ostensibly arose due to incorrect reporting or tabulation of information cannot be dismissed.

It is also doubtable at this point in time whether the Government can undo the numerous inadvertent errors in the census enumerations such as “errors in coverage”, where; a person or groups of persons may have not been counted at all or counted twice. Of much serious concern is the undercount which may have occurred in areas with nomadic lifestyles. Such undercounts are likely to greatly affect people’s abilities to be represented in Government`s affairs.

Considering the fact that the exercise was marred by widespread corruption in recruiting census enumerators; it is not surprising at all that it greatly suffered from the naivety of undeserving enumeration officers.. Majority of them could not fully comprehend the magnitude and complexity of such an extremely important decennial exercise.

Given the socio-economic and political importance of the exercise, it is understandable that the public exerts pressure on the Government to expedite the process. However, it must not be lost to all that such pressure may force the Government to wittingly release doctored census results if only to save face. We have to accept the fact that the “1999 decennial census error” is here with us again.

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