In Summary
  • A legal notice published in October 2018 compels people to answer accurately to all the 36 details sought in the exercise

  • Government yet to explain why it is counting people again three months after Huduma Namba listing.

  • The silence following the conclusion of the Sh7.7 billion biometric registration exercise in May has even made matters worse.

Several controversies have dogged the preparatory phase of the decennial census that gets underway Saturday evening even as the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) maintains that they are ready for the count.

The census will kick off at 6pm and continue until August 31. Today’s evening, referred to as the Census Reference Night, will be key.


After 52 days of queuing to participate in another digital registration exercise dubbed Huduma Namba, many are yet to fully comprehend why the census will be gobbling up Sh18.5 billion to ask more or less the same questions that were asked barely three months ago.

The silence following the conclusion of the Sh7.7 billion biometric registration exercise in May has even made matters worse.

A first of its kind, every Kenyan was expected to get a unique number after the exercise that saw biometrics captured (digital fingerprints and photo) but no number or card has been forthcoming and the government has been silent about it. It also remains unclear when the numbers will be out or even the exact number of people that were registered in the exercise, which ended on May 25.

As if that was not enough, the preparatory phase of the census has been marked with poor and sometimes confusing communication. For instance, many Nairobians were not aware that there would be a pre-enumeration visit to houses by enumerators (pre-listing) on Friday. Some in Greenfields, Donholm, were almost lynched when they appeared outside peoples’ doors claiming to be conducting the pre-listing, which residents were not aware of.

In South C, another enumerator was confronted by residents who did not understand her mission when the counting was still some 48 hours away.


Many people we talked to said they were not aware of such an exercise as KNBS had not informed the public to expect such visits. “I heard a knock on my door last evening (Thursday) and the person standing there introduced himself as a KNBS staff carrying out some census-related exercise. I could not understand what this was about because I knew census was starting on Saturday,” said John Mutua of Pipeline estate, Nairobi. According to Mr Mutua, he sent the official away because he feared he could be a criminal posing as census staff.

Still on communication, KNBS problems were compounded by matters beyond their control. Having requested that Monday, August 26 be declared a public holiday, State House’s communication unit appeared to jump the gun by announcing that President Uhuru Kenyatta had agreed to the request before quickly sending out a clarification that there would be no holiday.

In an interview with the Nation last week before the State House mix-up that all but ended hopes of public holiday, KNBS director-general Zachary Mwangi had spoken passionately about the need for Monday to be a holiday.

“If we get Monday as a holiday it will make our work a bit easier as many people will be settled at home. As a tradition, we have always been having census holidays during the period of the count and it is meant to make the population to be as stable as possible since movements are minimised,” Mr Mwangi had said.

The disorganisation and poor communication was also evident on Wednesday, when KNBS cancelled a meeting they were to have with the Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) at the last minute with no explanation offered. The meeting was scheduled from 8.30am at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) and everything was on course until 8.16am when the bureau sent a message informing KEG of the cancellation.


The other controversy around this year’s census has been the budget. From Sh8.4 billion in 2009, the 2019 count is costing the taxpayer a cool Sh18.5 billion, which is more than twice the cost 10 years ago.

Page 1 of 2