North Eastern is Not an “Empty Quarter”

North Eastern is Not an “Empty Quarter”

By Hon Billow Kerrow,

There appears to be a concerted effort by Central Kenya leaders to project the counties of Mandera, Wajir & Garissa as uninhabited ‘empty quarters’ characterized by ‘animals, trees & deserts”, and that 2009 Census in these counties were falsified. This argument is driven by a warped sense of entitlement by Central Kenya leaders that these counties take an unfair share of revenue allocation. I will deal with the issue of equitable revenue allocation at a later date.

North Eastern region comprising the three counties is inhabited by pastoralist Somali community. Before the repeal of the emergency laws in 1991, this region was under an emergency rule, and was governed by the security organs. No meaningful census was ever conducted during this period. In 1999, although the area was still largely remote, inaccessible and the residents predominantly nomadic, the census recorded nearly a 300% increase from 371,000 to 967,000. In 1979, its population was 379,000. Government of Kenya (GoK) did not complain why the 1989 figures were lower than that of 1979. Nor did it raise an issue with the three-fold increase in1999. Reason – they knew circumstances in the region did not allow proper, exhaustive and fair enumeration.

In 2009, the census was properly organized to deal with the situation in the region. For the first time, the GoK recognized the challenges in the area, and cited in its 2009 Census Report: “prolonged drought during the period preceding the enumeration heightened nomadic activity – sometimes across Kenyan frontiers, which made enumeration of the communities a somewhat complex exercise.” Provisions were made to address these challenges. But more significantly, the Census was conducted over a 7 days period as opposed to one night in the previous years. The region’s numbers increased from 967,000 to 2,310,000 which is 138% increase. Given the trends in previous censuses this would not have come as a surprise but for an ulterior reason.

In its 2009 Census Report, the GOK acknowledged that it “ made a decision to have the census enumeration externally and independently monitored by a team of experts to encourage transparency and effective supervision and implementation.” �As required in international best practice, GoK stated in its report that “A Post Enumeration Survey (PES) was conducted in November, 2009 in a representative sample of 305 Enumeration Areas (EA). The purpose of the PES is to help evaluate the completeness and accuracy of the census enumeration.” With all these checks and balances, it released the results but in a change of heart decided to cancel it.

GoK announced in August 2010 that it has cancelled the results in the 3 counties. A motion was hurriedly presented in Parliament to reduce the enumerated population in the 3 counties arbitrarily by 40% across the board, on grounds the census figures from the region were falsified. This is after the GoK realized it has no powers to order a repeat census after declaration of results and decided to use projected results.

Leaders from the region moved to High Court in 2010 vide Civil Application No. 309 to quash the government decision, which the court did in February 2012. Attorney General filed an appeal against the decision immediately under Executive pressure to reverse the decision. The three county governments successfully petitioned to be enjoined in the Court of Appeal case in 2016. In February 2017, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court decision barring GoK from using any population figures other the 2009 Census results.

Its all about the changing demographics in the country. At 2.38 million, the Census had revealed Somalis were the 6th largest tribe behind Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo & Kamba. But even these Somali figures are believed to have been unashamedly doctored by the State and it is easy to discern. Out of the 2.38 million Somali population in the 2009 Census Report, 2.31 million were enumerated in the three counties of Mandera, Wajir & Garissa, leaving only 70,000 as the total number of Somalis in the rest of Kenya, from Moyale, Isiolo, Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, Nakuru, etc. Somalis are most widespread community in the country after Kikuyu, and are in nearly every county in Kenya in sizeable numbers. How then can they be only 70,000 in the entire country outside the three counties? It is estimated that their number in the rest of the country was about 1.5 million which would have made the community the 4rd largest!

Somalis also have the highest total fertility rate in the country. North Eastern fertility rate was 6.4%, nearly three times that of Central Kenya. According to the Census report, the average number of children born to mothers was 7 compared to 3 in Central Kenya. Indeed, other regions such as Western, Rift Valley & Nyanza had fertility rates of above 4.5% compared to 2.6% in Central. Based on these figures, it is clear that population for North Eastern will head north in 2019! For Central Kenya, choices have consequences…you cant have your cake and eat it.

In the 2009 Census, Central had the 3rd lowest population at 4.3 million, after North Eastern and Coast. The other 5 regions had higher population than Central. In the top 21 counties with over 800,000 people, only Kiambu and Muranga made it to the list. And in the counties with over 1 million people (excluding Mandera), only Kiambu is in the league, with other 9 being Nyamira, Kilifi, Kitui, Bungoma, Kakmega, Nairobi, Meru Machakos and Nakuru.

  1. 2009 Census were validated by the Courts. If you believe in the rule of law, you cannot bury your heads in the sand. After all, the same courts upheld the President’s disputed election. Kenyans agreed to move on. Times have changed; please smell the coffee! Our Constitution recognizes “We the people..” as the nation and not trees, animals, etc. GoK can conduct 2019 census using biometrics as suggested but it does not change the reality. Lets respect each other.