Friday, September 03, 2010


Kenya Somalis: Population hype

Published 09/03/2010 by

Planning Minister, Wycliffe Oparanya and population expert Dr. Lawrence Ikamari of Nairobi University are too na├»ve to speak to the socio-cultural structures of Northern Kenya Somalis. If that is not the case, then they are deliberately undermining the veracity of the region’s census. The assumption that the current census of North Eastern province is bloated while the previous ones were accurate is unfounded.

On three ontological accounts, the census of North Eastern province has never been nearly accurate; first, census agents often conduct counts in major cities and mid-sized villages. Greater part of Somali population in this region is pastoral and rarely in sedentary structure. On this basis, only a small portion of the population could be reached. Second, head counting family in the Somali norm is not embraced kindly and implicitly implies sinister motive. Third, suspicion embedded in historical marginalization and perpetual discrimination naturally limits census process.  Dr. Ikamari and Oparanya could do justice to the census-2009 by looking beyond the natural population pattern argument espoused in text books. Instead, it would be prudent to take a more in depth analysis of the dramatic population shift. In the last decade, there has been mass sedentarization of the pastoral communities spawning settlements around Garissa, Mandera, Wajir and other small towns.

El-Nino rains, La-Nina and subsequent draughts left widespread bankruptcy in livestock. Hundreds of thousands camel, cattle, goat and sheep perished leaving legions of pastoral communities destitute. These communities were left with no option but sedentary lifestyle. The upsurge in population around existing towns and villages were not captured by the census-1999 as the settlements were gradual throughout the last decade. That means the enumerators were able to reach more of the population this time than they were able to do in the past. The recent counts that is now touted as bloated is more likely a fair representation of the population. Numbers recently quoted by the Interim Electoral Commission of Kenya (IIECK) show stark similarity to those shown in the census 2009.

According to the Interim Independent Electoral Commission the region has 232,099 registered voters which represent 10 per cent of the total population. This numbers extrapolated to 100th percentile means the regions’ population is around 2.3 million, congruent with the result garbaged by the planning minister. The argument by some pundits that high birth rate has contributed to the puzzling numbers is also defunct. Population growth in the Somali community assumes a linear trajectory barring any significant natural disaster or manmade human cleansing. Nothing indicates an upward shift in birth rate between the last few decades as claimed by the government ill-luminaries. On the contrary, at least theoretically, birth rate may have been lowered in the last two decades due to education and awareness around HIV/AIDS in the region.