When will the people of Turkana say goodbye to famine forever?
Why is it that Kenya would tether them to world relief all these years? Is not Turkana tired of being the face of pain in our country? What do the leaders of Kenya learn from Turkana's frequent famines. So frequent that somebody started a Facebook Page? Here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.180451438689335.42790.138550856212727&type=3
A newspaper article in November last year showed that the US Development Foundation and the Kenya Commercial Bank boosted food security in Turkana with millions of shillings.
What has the government done in this regard for Turkana?
Devolution as envisaged in Kenya's new law is urgent in Kenya and more so in Turkana and all marginalised areas of Kenya. And so it is written in Kenya's August 2010 Constitution Article 174 that devolution objects are among others to: (e) protect and promote the interests and rights of minorities and marginalised communities;
(f) to promote social and economic development and the provision of proximate, easily accessible services throughout Kenya...
There are some other good sounding things such as the ensurance of "Equitable sharing of national and local resources throughout Kenya"
There is famine in 2014 in Turkana County of Kenya. Turkana listed 23 between Kiambu (22) and West Pokot (24)in the First Schedule on Counties in the Constitution 2010 still belongs to the part of Kenya so marginalised that the citizens there often sent greetings to the rest of Kenyans therefore indicating that they were hardly part of Kenya. While Kiambu indicators show a good tackling of poverty - I know not everyone there is rich- Turkana has still one of the highest levels of poverty at district level. You can see that here:
It is only that oil and later vast amounts of water reserves have been found in some parts of the dry area. We hope that development will not be as oil to water in life but that the two resources will be harnessed for the local people for this will contribute to justice in Kenya.
The trouble with Turkana and food security is not new. But it is extremely sad that a predictable famine has not been managed by Kenya for so long and that the government does not find a way of putting this situation behind the people of Turkana. One may well fear.
That this may get worse each time instead of improving because Turkana is now a coveted part of Kenya. The trouble with Turkana if Kenya does not stand by the county and cause fast changes for the empowerment of the citizens of Kenya who live there, may become very much the same as the Trouble with Nigeria as so well narrated by Chinua Achebe in his essay. For county governments must work
I believe that the African Union needs a patron badly and this must be Achebe who has left in his writings simple but very concrete ideas on the leadership of Afrika.
Achebe's ideas put into practice may and could bring dignity upon us. Why is Turkana starving today? Only last year we were told that aquifers containing water that could be useful for about 70 years were found so that the county is not only rich in oil but also has a water resovoir beneath it. Of course leadership is key here otherwise the blessings of Turkana will continue to be a curse.
We have seen this before and it is almost predictable that after every five years there will be a food shortage in Turkana where a water shortage is permanent. The two things go together. For even when some areas in what was called by the British the Northern Eastern Frontier and up to 2010 in Kenya North Eastern Province can be wet and productive, Turkana area is on the whole dry.
It was sad to hear a KTN Kenya journalist ask how come Turkana people can starve whilst their neighbouring County Uasin Gishu and others are food sufficient. Well, famine does not happen in Turkana because there is no food in Kenya. The famine in Turkana points at one thing. Deep poverty for the majority of people who cannot and do not have food to store for the hard years. This is unforgivable in a country such as Kenya where food can be so easily grown even in these dry areas.
The grandmothers and girls that we mainly see in the news eating wild berries after which some of whom have died are not individuals we can say even got what the majority of us in Kenya have reaped in the last 50 years of independence in terms of education. Turkana is Kenya's least formally educated county. The professionals who come from the area receive little support to transform their home area or even lead in Kenya.
Turkana area is one of those that require emergency affirmative support so that the roots of development can begin to go down. It is not possible to suddenly compare the area to Uasin Gishu or Kiambu or Mombasa. This wold be unfair.
The journalist asking the question why food is so near yet the people starve needs to consider the infrastructure of Turkana. How often buses and other vehicles leave Eldoret and Kitale towards Turkana and how many get there. I have heard of a place where those lucky few who are able to shop make the rest of the way on a donkey. Where it becomes difficult to even travel with one packet of unga.
So many will clap that oil has been found in Turkana but this will only spell doom for the local people if the management of the county is not immediately supported with great integrity.
I return to Achebe and apply this to Turkana and indeed to Kenya as a country.
"For the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership."