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Kenya holding first national census in a decade

Kenya began its first national census in a decade Monday amid an outcry over one question that asks people to identify their ethnic group — a contentious issue in this East African nation.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Kenya began its first national census in a decade Monday amid an outcry over one question that asks people to identify their ethnic group — a contentious issue in this East African nation.

The weeklong census is meant to update statistics on population and other trends, with preliminary results released in December. But the question of ethnicity has been the most heated topic about the exercise.

Kenya's disastrous presidential election in 2007 inflamed the country's long-standing ethnic tensions, sparking one of the darkest times in the country's history since independence in 1963. More than 1,000 people were killed in the violence.

Government officials say as much detail is needed in the census to identify Kenya's makeup, but critics fear the information could be misused.

Kenya's last census in 1999 found the country's population at 28.7 million, but it did not make public the figures about ethnicity. Population size is a key criterion for determining government spending, and perceptions about a tribe's size fuel expectations of greater or less government funding.