A right royal row has broken out over, of all things, the results of Kenya's 1989 census. Five years in the making the figures were only released in March.
Opposition leaders have led a chorus of accusations that the official 1989 census figures as released by Vice-President George Saitoti have been altered.
According to the official figures, Kenya's population is now 25m, yet the head count of five years ago put it at 21.4m. The World Bank assigns Kenya an annual population growth rate of 3.8% in its most recent assessment, although it revises the rates freely. The totals appear to be about right, in any case.
It is not so much the total, though, as the breakdowns that have come in for derision. Opposition leaders and other interest groups have claimed that the figures have been "cooked" to make certain tribes appear to be more numerous than they really are.
Many questioned the reasons for releasing five-year-old census figures in the first place, especially since at the time the census was taken, under the direction of former Nairobi Provincial Commissioner Fred Karuga Waiganjo, the whole exercise had been dismissed a week later as having been useless. President Moi himself had slammed the census at the time, complaining that any successful census should be taken within one day, whereas this one had taken more than 24 hours. "The enumerators had wasted a lot of time and annoyed people by asking questions whose answers could have been provided by the Central Bureau of Statistics," he had lamented.
The entire expensive undertaking might have been forgotten were it not for the UN Fund for Population, which had donated vast sums of money to the effort and wanted something to show for it.
Population censuses in developing countries often have a far greater political significance than Europeans or North Americans would imagine. For example, before the ill-fated official unveiling, two Luhya politicians, former Agriculture Minister Elijah Mwangale and MP for Webuye Joash. Wa, Mangoli, twice demanded that the Luhya community should be offered the:Vice-Presidency of the country because the Luhya were the second-largest tribe in Kenya - a claim that, not surprisingly, was vigorously disputed by a number of non-Luhyas.
Then too, the set-up in the global aid system, doler out of billions of dollars, provides a strong incentive for countries to produce the highest possible population figures. A large total population yields a lower per-capita income...