CENSUS

Population, Housing data is for Planning not Ethnic Contest

But let us defer the parochial ‘tribal number’ politics for a minute and ask candid questions.

In Summary

•We have heard murmurs of complaints about certain ‘numbers’ not representing the ‘actual’ numbers of certain ethnicity.

•Aside with all the political chit chat about ethnic numbers, the KNBS has captured some of the most pertinent human development issues that we need consciously think about.

Members of the public with copies of Kenya's census results./FILE
Members of the public with copies of Kenya's census results./FILE

Politics of ethnic numbers is one of the informal obsessions that we Kenyans reverently get into especially when political stakes are high,particularly around the electioneering cycles.

The recently released Kenya Population and Housing Census data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics has again stirred the usual undertones about perennial issue of tribe and politics in Kenya.

We have heard murmurs of complaints about certain ‘numbers’ not representing the ‘actual’ numbers of certain ethnicity.

Aside with all the political chit chat about ethnic numbers, the KNBS has captured some of the most pertinent human development issues that we need consciously think about.

However, many Kenyans have been blinded by the parochial politics about tribe and numbers, neglecting the most pressing development needs which deserve our utmost national attention.

Lest we forget too soon, a paltry 10% of Kenyans have access to piped water while 41% live in mud and cow dung walled houses in rural areas.

92% of Kenyans living in rural areas still rely on solid wood and charcoal for cooking fuel while only 9.7% of Kenyans have access to sewer and another 72% of Kenyans burn and bury their domestic solid waste.

Some of these human development indices in the KNBS data show that there isa lot of work yet to be done on improving on the quality of living standards for Kenyans.

But are we introspecting on why we have these conspicuously low living standards for many Kenyans especially in rural areas?In November 2019, the Ministry of Energy in conjunction with Clean Cooking Association of Kenya released a national survey report that revealed that solid wood fuel is a silent death trap in many households across the country.

Approximately 21,500 Kenyans lose their lives each year due to indoor air pollution arising from using solid wood and charcoal fuel.

These are some of the pertinent issues that should invoke candid debates about what needs to be done to improve the living standards for Kenyans using the census data released by KNBS.

Regrettably, some Kenyans including politicians have cherry picked the population and housing census data for skewed parochial political agenda setting rather than making in-depth inquiries into what the statistics imply on Kenya’s socio-economic development agenda.

As a matter of fact, the KNBS census data validates the big four agenda and why it is imperative the socio-development blueprint is fully supported to improve living standards for Kenyans.

The four key pillars of the big four agenda including affordable housing, food security, manufacturing and Universal health Care fits well with Kenya’s urgent socio-economic development priorities that the country needs to pursue in order to improve the quality of life for Kenyans.

We have recently seen and heard some very superfluous narratives about the census data on how the so called‘big tribes’ still have a controlling stake on national politics by virtue of the so called the ‘tyranny of numbers’.

Unofficially, proponents of such debates assume that some of Kenya’s minority tribes cannot produce national leaders just because they do not have controlling majorities to significantly influence national elections.

But let us defer the parochial ‘tribal number’ politics for a minute and ask the candid questions. With a younger population where a majority of Kenyans fall between 0 to 35 years, what do we need to do to create more jobs to absorb the youthful population into the labour force? When are we going to achieve the globally recommended forest cover of 10% of our country’s land mass when 92% of the rural communities still rely on solid wood and charcoal for cooking fuel? With our perennial cycles of drought and hunger? What does the country need to do to ensure food security for the growing population?

The census data should not be truncated to mere ‘ethnic numbers’ for elective politics.

We need to use the population and housing census data to construct appropriate national discourse around issues of socio-economic development and not the ‘tribal number’ calculus and political balkanization which will never inspire socio-economic development in the country.