It seems to have become the new normal for Kenya to suffer drought and famine year in year out. It begins with heavy sporadic rains that lead to floods that bring down buildings, making roads impassable and worse sweeping people and animals away. Phase one and then comes phase two. A few months after water being deemed an enemy to humanity, the weatherman predicts that it will continue to get hotter and that the country should brace itself for tough times ahead. Life goes on as usual and then the change begins. Prices of basics and essentials go up and the tide begins to change. The usual reaction that the weatherman is never right starts to fade and people shift to ‘for once they got it right.’
Then comes phase three. The sun’s rays become hotter and a time to wear sundresses and one’s best sunglasses becomes unbearable. Parts of the country whose climate is hot and dry are hit the hardest and then it begins to spread across the rest of the country. The government at first remains mum, then denies that the country is in trouble and finally after a bad situation has gone to worst ever, admits that the country is facing tough times, pledges to ensure that no citizen dies because of famine and as usual appeals to donors to help the country pull through.
2017 is of no difference. The country continues to be rocked by famine and drought and its impact. The counties of Baringo and Laikipia in the Rift Valley have been the subject of news stories on various outlets such as the papers, television as well as social media due to the ongoing violence that has been fueled by drought. According to a piece by Associated Press for the New Zimbabwe, at least 21 people have died in fighting between herders in Baringo County while in Laikipia, a British farmer was killed by herders invading ranches in search of pasture and water. The British government, in response, pledged to ‘give’ Kenya 4.9 million dollars to mitigate the effects of drought. The move by the President has been to deploy the military to quell the situation.
In the same breath, Kenyan citizens once again have decided to take matters into their own hands by raising money through drives organized by churches, mosques as well as relief organization Kenya Red Cross. Supermarkets like Uchumi have ventured into collecting relief food that shoppers purchase and decide to donate. Dinner galas are also being used as an avenue through which funds can be raised so as to help those affected by the drought.
A particular one that caught my attention is one set for the 8th of April 2017. It is has been labeled a drought charity family dinner, it is to held at the Intercontinental Hotel and the Guest of Honor is Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Amina Mohamed. While the intention behind it is definitely a good one, it is a bit ironic to host a dinner to raise money to feed the hungry. Having the Ambassador attend as Guest of Honor increases the dinner’s chances of success but could also be taken the wrong way.
The government, however, has failed the most in this fight. Despite warnings and lessons from history, dealing with drought and making it a thing of the past does not seem to be a priority. It is arguable that it is often used as a means of getting money from donors and sinking the country into more debt. The move by Members of Parliament to get a severance package in light of their five years of service is a slap in the face. Priorities are upside down and all the government seems to care about is guaranteeing its return to power after the coming general election.
The Kenyan government needs to step up and realize that they are servants of the people and not the other way round. Actually carrying out their functions is not a favor to its people. It need not get to election year before they can remember that they are responsible for the lives of millions and address their needs without bias of tribe, gender, political affiliation, religion and so on. It is evident that money is how to keep them in check and therefore Kenyans should boycott taxes and pay them only when services are rendered to them. The idea might be seen as impossible, or even laughable, but it has been done before by residents of the Eastleigh area in the country’s capital and the result was that they got the services they boycotted for.