Kenyans complain about bar closures to facilitate census
Government move to shut venues on day of football match draws electorate’s ire
Kenyans watch football in a bar in Nairobi: the country’s sixth census involves shutting down bars so as to enumerate people. Photograph: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Kenya’s interior minister, Fred Okengo Matiang’i, has ordered a nationwide closure of bars and entertainment venues over the weekend to facilitate a national census, a move that has been condemned by citizens, particularly those who want to watch the English Premier League.
Referring to the Arsenal versus Liverpool game on Saturday, social media user Iam Wycliffe tweeted: “That match is bigger than Kenyan government and the census itself . . . If you don’t allow us watch that game in clubs and go home by 9pm then we won’t open our doors for your people.”
“Which law is Matiang’i using to order closure of bars and restaurants on Saturday for [the] census?” tweeted Thuo Kimani Githuku. “Is he declaring [an] emergency? Has he gazetted the orders? Do we use jungle law allowing assholes in government to restrict freedoms of the citizens as they wish?”
“We have extremely stupid leaders,” wrote Nahashon Diaz. “How do you shut down businesses that depend on weekends to make money?”
Responding to the criticism, Mr Matiang’i said there was only one census every 10 years and it was important to get it right. The government had been working on the census plan for the past three years, he said at a press conference.
“You can go have your drink between two and five o’clock,” said Mr Matiang’i. “If you are not satisfied with beer for three whole hours then there is a problem with you... By five proceed home so that you can be counted.”
Mr Matiang’i suggested Kenyans could instead watch the Liverpool and Arsenal game at home with their families. “Maybe they will have a chance they rarely have of watching a football match with you.”
This will be the sixth census in Kenya, an east African country of roughly 50 million people.
Mr Matiang’i also addressed reports that some politicians had been encouraging citizens who lived in cities to travel to more rural areas to be counted there, in a bid to get more funding for those areas in the future, saying such actions would be met with “the law”.
The punishment for “obstructing” the census can be a fine of 500,000 Kenyan shillings (€4,380) or a one-year prison sentence, according to local media. Failing to answer questions, or giving false information, can be punished with a prison term of six months.
According to Kenyan newspaper the Standard, topics covered in the census will include age, tribe, sex, education, property ownership, the number of people in your family with disabilities, the number of wives a man is married to, the type of farming a family carries out, what kind of access to computer services they have and whether there are factors that prevent them from doing daily chores.
A final report will be released within a year of its completion.