Accessibility links

Kenya’s Week-Long Census Ends Monday

Kenya's week-long census that has generated lots of controversy ends Monday.

President Mwai Kibaki's coalition government said the population count would provide much needed data to aid future developmental planning.

But critics of the census say asking Kenyans to identify their ethnicities shortly after the 2007 post-election violence was in bad taste.

They argued that the census will provide ethnic head count strategy to be employed by divisive politicians ahead of next general election scheduled for 2012.

Hassan Omar, Vice Chairman of Kenya's Human Rights Commission said that Kenyans were not apathetic to the census.

"The Kenya Bureau of Statistics has assured us that the census had gone on smoothly. That it met the expectations of the bureau in terms of planning that by the close of today (Monday) at least 95 percent of the Kenyan people would have been countered," Omar said.

He said many Kenyans were apprehensive from the beginning about the census.

"The initial skepticism was the fact that first and foremost the exercise was too expensive for the country at this point in time when there were other national priorities like the water crisis…and many other crisis that could have required more of an urgent attention rather than having almost seven billion [shillings] which is almost $100 million dedicated to the census exercise," he said.

Omar said the ethnic questions asked during the census generated controversy.

"Kenyans had had a very sensitive tribal politics and tribal affiliations to a point that it almost brought the country into disintegration after the 2007 general election. And therefore, it was widely believed that this was a way in which people could head count their tribe in preparation for the political contestation," Omar said.

He said there was a need for the census to aid government's planning efforts.

"Censuses are held for good causes. It helps the government in terms of planning and it helps them to get a reasonable statistical indication of what they need to do in terms of undertaking their planning exercises in the country," he said.

Omar said the Kenya Human Rights Commission supports the census.

"As a commission we did not indicate our reservation about the census. We did believe that it was an exercise the government believed would be undertaken with the kind of impartiality and fairness," Omar said.

He said despite initial apprehension, most Kenyans cooperated with the head count.

"Surprisingly, or interestingly Kenyans did show a lot of willingness. Whenever the enumerators visited most of the homes in Kenya, nobody showed the kind of reservation that maybe one would have expected. There wasn't as much apathy as maybe we would have expected," he said.

The Kenyan government has so far said it was satisfied with the level of participation during the week-long census.