By MOSES ODHIAMBO @aliwamoses
Thursday May 10, 2018
A conversation between Majority Leader Aden Duale and lawyer Donald Kipkorir, over the population of Somalis in Kenya, has reignited a Twitter debate on poll numbers.
Through the social media platform on Wednesday, Kipkorir said there are only 300,000 Somalis in Kenya, a number that Duale vehemently dismissed.
Kipkorir wrote: "Somalis are less than 300,000 but belong to all political parties, and have their own parties but never allow political differences to come between their faith, friendships, business and lobbying for big offices.
"Like Qatar, Somalis punch above their weight ... other tribes need learning," Kipkorir added, a comment that Duale, who is Garissa Town MP, did not take lightly.
The National Assembly Majority Leader told off the lawyer saying Somalis number more than three million and are spread across the country.
The legislator added that the community has, since time immemorial, occupied critical positions in government, the legislature and the private sector.
"To wrap it all up, Somalis occupy more than 65 percent of the Horn of Africa...bure kabisa...fitina (very useless ... malice)."
Kenyans following the conversation dismissed the numbers, and even drew data from the 2009 national census which show that the four counties, largely dominated by the community, have a population of slightly over 600,000 people.
Somalis are dominant in the sparsely populated Northeastern counties of Wajir, Mandera and Garissa.
Fatuma Kinsi, a Twitter user, said: "Over 20 million ethnic Somalis are spread across Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and all over Africa, and three million of them share the same nationality as you here in Kenya. Deal with it!"
Abdishakur Maalim said it is possible that there are millions of Somalis in Kenya, considering most of their families are polygamous.
"The average Somali household has six kids. You forgot to add another zero to your quoted figure, notwithstanding that they are polygamous in nature. That’s is a conservative figure. Maybe you are basing your figures on [Duale's Twitter followers]," Maalim said.
It is not clear whether Kipkorir's focus was on the entire population or just those who are 18 years and above, hence of Kenya's voting age.
However, other users said that focus on how big or small a community negates steps taken to end tribalism and negative ethnicity in Kenya's politics.
"Whether wakili (the lawyer) got the number right or wrong, I think he has a message to Kenyans of other tribes - stop tribalism. Let tribalism not get into your heads. The other day MPs agreed on increasing their pension by 700 percent regardless of tribe and party,” Beatrice Birgen said.
Erick Cheruiyot added: "All of us, including the Majority Leader, are petty. We're down to discussing tribal headcounts instead of soberly analysiing his point. Very heart breaking!"
Some of the members of the community also disagreed with the two for saying Somalis' success is driven by their political affiliations.
"Thanks for the compliments, senior counsel Kipkorir. However, Northeastern region is the most undeveloped, with the highest illiteracy levels. Political parties have favoured Somalis the least. It seems we stick out wherever we are because most Somalis are outspoken and active," Hubbie al-Haji said.
Ongoya Nyang wrote: "I don't understand why Somalis are always on the offensive when people discuss their numbers. Are you guys hiding something, especially the numbers in Kenya?"
Numbers are always a bone of contention in Kenya's political contests as communities rally behind 'their own' during elections.
Political alignments are equally factored more on tribal inclinations, an aspect that has played into the general elections.