By Zak Syengo
With less than four years to the next general election, three things will dominate our political atmosphere and saturate most gatherings.
The 2019 census, a probable referendum under two years and the Uhuru succession politics before 2022 will remain the most relevant and predominant subjects.
For now, let us deal with the problem at hand, the 2019 census. The problem, because most likely we will need to borrow some more to finance this exercise, whether domestically or internationally. The problem also because at the end of the exercise there will be victims and victors, some perceived lack of favor from the numbers crying foul, that the census is not a reflection of the status on the ground. Those whose population will have grown sycophantically authenticating the process, and demanding endorsement of the outcome. But that is the problem with the political class in Kenya, like the crow of Noah’s ark, not easy to satisfy.
Census numbers speak to so many socio-economic aspects, hence no expurgated interest. In Kenya, it matters how many people are in a county or constituency. It determines how and when boundary reviews will be done, so it helps settle some political duels, or reward political efforts. The population status determines how resources are shared, hence used as a yardstick to allude to equitable distribution of national wealth.
So, we should not be surprised when census results are disputed, it is a common trend across the world. India has experienced this a number of instances, biased on cast or other constellation, but all driven by the end game of revenue sharing. This is an emotive issue, just like land, and other identities that have become the hallmark of Kenyan politics.
But let’s face some of the realities beyond our egocentric and myopic political or socio-economic ambitions.
In 1963, Norway had a population of 3.6 million people, in close comparison with Kenya at 8.9 million. 55 years later, Kenya’s population has leapfrogged to a staggering close to 50 million, while Norway despite her economic prowess has managed her population to 5.3 million. I say managed because there must have been a deliberate effort to control the population growth. The obvious reason is that natural resources are scarce and diminishing, and as such the issue of population growth deserves a better approach, away from the narrow-minded sensations.
But in Africa, and more specifically Kenya, we are weird. Look at these two examples.
In 2011, an assistant minister in what used to be called Eastern province called upon women in his constituency to give birth to more children. He anticipated that this will support his political ambitions, especially his chances for 2027 presidency. He went further to offer a sum that could cater for basic shopping when one gives birth, as if that’s the only milestone in bringing up a life on earth. In October 2018, yet another Member of Parliament from Taita Taveta urged residents to sire more offspring to increase the county’s population. He alluded that they are disadvantaged in revenue allocation from the central government.
Politicians do not speak about birth control but obviously, they practise it. The dreams of our children should worry us, those born by the rich and the poor. The issue of quality education and upbringing, as well as managing natural resources also for a future generation should be a priority. We should think about sustainability.