It is 3am and I am still staring at the ceiling with no sign of sleep yet. As my thoughts lazily wallow in the dark, I suddenly remember the root of my anxiety. I have been having this feeling as long as I can remember. 24th is just hours away and I am not sure whether I am ready for the task that awaits me. There is this fear of the unknown that is paralyzing all my nerves. I now have all the reasons to worry about my role in the upcoming National Population and Housing Census… An enumerator’s role.
Even after undergoing rigorous training and the assurance from the government that all is set for our respective tasks, gaping loopholes in our country’s systems can not give me peace of mind. An inner voice constantly reminds me that anything can still happen to anyone during the said census night.
First is the security issue. Although the government has assured us that security has been beefed up in all parts of the country to ensure that the exercise goes on uninterrupted, the increased rates of insecurity, abductions and kidnappings in the country cannot go unmentioned. The country has experienced several cases of kidnappings in the recent cases, including police officers falling victims. Several police officers have been gunned down by unsuspected gangsters. Owing to this, many of us are not sure whether the assurance of security will be ensured. Also, bear in mind that almost three quarters of Nairobi is a slum…
The other issue that enumerators are likely to face is the challenge on cultural disparities. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) requires that every person in the Kenyan soil will be counted, including those living abroad and even one-day-old babies. The census will be done on a ‘de facto’ mode, that is, with reference to the night of 24th/25th August only. But this is bound to raise eyebrows on some cultures where the word ‘people’ is used only to refer to men. In the pokot community for instance, women and children cannot be counted because it is against their cultural traditions. Hence enumerators in such areas are likely to be met with hostility.
In addition, enumerators also face challenges in collecting data owing to the harsh economic conditions and the 2008 post election violence, which has made many people lose faith in the government. And this being a government exercise, many of the population have swore openly not to be counted, including the internally displaced. Besides the questionnaire having other sensitive questions like ‘What type of house do you live in?, Do you have relatives abroad?, Do they send you money?, How much per year and how do you use the money?’. Now you can be sure that as a respondent, these are some of the questions you can really be very uncomfortable answering them, especially on a night where, unfortunately, you slept hungry. But perhaps the big question that is likely to elicit bitter emotions is, ‘WHAT TRIBE ARE YOU?’
Kenya is a country that is still nursing wounds caused by the 2007 general elections and that led to post poll chaos with the tribe issue being at the core. As a result, more than 1000 people lost their lives and close to 500,000 people were displaced from their homes. As we speak, many are still living as IDPs in their own country. But one notable thing is that being ‘kenyan’ has also been enlisted as a tribe. If only many people can choose this ‘kenyan’ option as the answer to the above question, perhaps it can help bring about some healing.
Hence as the minutes tick away to the D-Day, I cannot stop thinking about the ‘what if’. I cannot keep myself away from the grave issues haunting my country and my fear of the unknown. Yes, I fear for myself. I fear for my country.