Why the number of Somalis in Kenya exploded
By Sadik B Abdullahi
Sept 01, 2010
Early this year, rumours had it that the number of Somalis in Kenya have increased substantially. And that the results for the census that was carried last year were cancelled because of this. Actually, this story appeared in one of the tabloids in Kenya - The Star. Now, the results are out; Oparanya officially announced the Kenya Census 2009 results today, 31st August, 2010.
Seems like they are not rumours anymore; the population of Somalis in Kenya which was just under a million in 1999 has more than doubled in just a decade and now stands at about 2.4 million. Is that possible? Yes and no. The new figures for the Somalis would not be possible if you base your analysis on natural growth alone, i.e. the net difference between births and deaths. But, there are many ‘non-natural’ reasons that could increase the population of a community.
Thus the question here is; what could have caused the exponential growth of the Somalis in Kenya? In my opinion there are many reasons underlying this seemingly doubtful growth rate that have nothing to do with immigration. And that the growth rate in essence could be a true reflection of the Somali population in Kenya. Therefore, these reasons include, but are not limited to, the following; changes in method of data collection and analysis, and changes in the pattern of intra-country migration – notably from nomadic to sedentary lifestyles. Other reasons could include inaccuracies, either deliberate or accidental, in the base population from which we found our previous assumptions. If, for example, the earlier census was not properly conducted or the results intentionally distorted, both of these would have an effect on the validity of our base population i.e. 1989, 1999 etc.
I know for sure the method of calculating Somalis in Kenya has changed. This, by sheer happenstance, I came to learn while a student at a certain college in Nairobi when we were given some assignments part of which entailed getting some figures from the census book. A friend of mine, he was a Turkana, decided for some reasons to compare the Somali population in Kenya to his community’s. He was shocked when he realized that the Somalis were indeed much fewer than the Turkanas. When I went back to the library with him, I was stunned too. The Somalis were divided into clans and each clan listed separately. Only a tiny minority were listed as Somalis. I later explained to my friend that the Degodias, Gurres, Ajurans and Ogadens he was seeing were actually Somali clans and not some distinct communities.
Why they decided to enumerate the Somalis in that manner is something that I have never understood. Now, if indeed the ‘Somali’ population, as listed in the 1989 census, was much lower than the Turkanas in Kenya, would the KNBS also be basing their analysis on inaccurate figures? Wasn’t it also easy for the guys behind these evil machinations to push the figures for the Somalis downwards? I have this feeling they not only could do that but they did. Why they did it is something that we would probably need to ponder on, for a long time to come.
Secondly, the Somalis in Kenya are predominantly nomads. We also know that the region mostly inhabited by these people has suffered from perennial drought and famine. This, I know for a fact, pushed many nomads to a sedentary lifestyle. Some of my relatives currently living in Garissa can attest to that. Also, it is only possible for government officials to enumerate settled residents. I thus, do not believe that the census clerks can exhaustively count nomadic tribesmen wandering in the expansive arid northeast, especially, when the census exercise is carried within a relatively short period of time. Therefore, the fact that many people now live in the urban centres in North-Eastern would definitely affect the number of Kenyan Somalis and of course push their numbers upwards.
Thirdly, and slightly related to the previous point is that the enumerators could have done a brilliant job this time round. I have a feeling that with each subsequent census the sophistication of the whole exercise improves. And this would have a positive effect on the census. Therefore, this would most likely increase the population of a community and in this case the Somalis who usually were not counted would effectively be captured by the census clerks.
Fourthly, I have this feeling that someone somewhere has some vendetta against the Somalis. I say this because it was only early this year when we heard that there would be some audit of Somali owned properties in the city. I am convinced that someone, reeling from the failure of the anti terrorism bill fail to go through, wants to pass the same through the backdoor. Thus as Kenyans we need to be careful about this shadowy figures.
Conversely, the argument that immigration, too, has something to do with the increase of the Somalis could be true. And, in the case that this is true then the government should be held responsible for that. How, for example, should Kenyan Somalis be held accountable for the corruption condoned by the government? If any non Kenyan Somali has illegally obtained Kenyan citizenship then I doubt whether their accumulated numbers could exceed a few thousands. Thus, I doubt this last point could substantially increase the number of Somalis.
Lastly, most of the above would also be true for the Turkanas whose numbers have also been questioned. Or, is this some clever way of justifying the imminent downward revision of the number of Somalis in Kenya? By making it appear as though it’s not just Kenyan Somalis they have a problem with? Anyway, I pray that sooner rather than later we will come to bottom of all this.
Sadik B. Abdullahi
EEGA9 wrote:Kenyan-Somalis clans were considered Ethnic groups before, so Ogaden,Ajuraan,Degodi would be seperate and only those unclassified were Somalia extremely underestimating the population.Kenyans should realise now Somalis deserve there positions in the Gov.
EEGA9 wrote:Jealous Kenyans...worried christians for the most part, scared of the muslim prominence in Kenya especially after the new constitution.This is another blow for them.How can a census be over-estimated by that much
Most of the nomad population have not even been accounted for...there has to be a better census conducted to account for all.
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