The North is gripped by drought, this must surely concern all of us


Abdi Abdulahi unties a rope from a carcass in drought-stricken Tana River County. [Caroline Chebet, Standard]

The world-famous classic song ‘We Are The World’ has a part that goes:

“We can’t go on
Pretending day-by-day
That someone, somewhere soon make a change
We’re all a part of God’s great big family
And the truth, you know, love is all we need...”

This ingenious composition provokes both the mind and the heart to think and feel innovatively about loving and caring for others. Such inspiring songs should be given more airtime on our broadcasting stations, which often play curse-heavy music that teaches a generation to hate.

Hate music inspires distance. But distancing ourselves from our neighbours chokes our chances of happiness. The world is wired such that any sadness around you will interfere with your happiness. To improve the quality of your happiness, you must share a portion of your joy with the lowly.

How can we be going on as if all is well when fellow Kenyans are facing a ferocious drought? This is why citizenship exists, and it should be the time when our friends in the arid North should reap the dividends of being Kenyan. Their government owes them attention. Many people would rightly ask, what became of the water reserves discovered in the Turkana region? The world was invited to document the ‘discovery’ but there has hardly been any comprehensive briefing made to Kenyans on the status of the aquifers.

We can have election rallies – even when it means breaking the law. But we cannot mobilise compassion drives –even when it can be done effectively from the convenience of the home. We continuously mobilise campaign money – even when it means breaking the law. But we cannot release the money to the drought-stricken because that amounts to ‘diversion’ and ‘embezzlement’!

Even more unfortunate, aspirants turn the solving of the drought problem into campaign promises. Seizing power ranks above saving lives.

We would want to pretend that all is well – that rain is falling everywhere and Kenya is plush and green. But the reality is that some of our sisters and brothers forgot how green looked like. All they have seen for months is a death-coloured brown. Their animals are dying from punishing water-seeking treks. The owners do not care what kind of water they find; they are just glad to find water.

In the meantime, we keep hoping that someone will take responsibility. We distance ourselves from action. We want our lives to be uninterrupted. But the drought is in our face. We can’t just go on! The hungry will haunt us until we pay attention.

It is common knowledge that love conquers all. But truth be told – kwa ground vitu ni different. We are not quick to love others. There is a love shortage. A heavily Christian community such as Kenya is supposed to boast enough love supply. But turning faith-pronounced love into real works is a road less travelled.

Converting expressions of faith into manifest actions is taxing and calls for both imagination and sacrifice. This is a demand that many believers dread. The stubborn fact is that there are points where only practical exhibitions will do. At such points, faith can either be confirmed to be true or exposed as mere big talk.

False religion

The silence of our religiosity at a time when we have people threatened by death is confusing. We witness a type of religion that coils in, gives no leadership and waits to piggy-back on initiatives by others. Religion is meant to unleash its muscle in a community’s chapter of pain. A religion that is indifferent to people’s suffering is false. Excluding the suffering from God’s family and welcoming them back after the rains is problematic.

The gospel of love for the neighbour is a peak point in the Biblical message. Many personal and national problems could be solved by baptising our systems into the love philosophy. But this instruction “love your neighbour” faces headwinds of selfishness.

The sails of love are torn by storms of individualism, steering the ship into strange harbours. When we ask the question, “Who is our neighbour?”, it is not with the genuine intent to get a definition.

It is with mockery on our lips, rebellion in our tone and hostility on our faces, implying the neighbour as nothing to draw our concern. Instead of “love your neighbour as yourself” we have a new commandment: love yourself and hack into your neighbour’s love, too.

When oil was discovered in Northern Kenya, heavy mobilisation was done in that direction. The language of fortunes began to feature regarding places that, till then, were largely known for no food. Interest was generated because there was finally something big to take away from these arid areas.

Well, there is a story yet to be told on the misfortune of oil barrels that did not rake in the projected billions. Now the same areas are struck by drought and the situation is met with disinterest. The area that was once branded as the next big economy now has nothing to give. The fate of the hungry people is treated with hesitance. Our sisters and brothers now have nothing to give. They have no goodies with which to transact. Any interest in them will only be a drain. Such is the heartlessness of the relationship between the arid regions and those rich in other resources.

Their animals are dying in numbers. But should these meat and milk-producing creatures just be watched as they die? Beyond their economic value, they are members of God’s creation. The world is not only made up of humans. Something feels wrong about doing nothing concerning the life of the animals.

In the past, it has been the death of the first human that set off the serious siren. But maybe if we moved in to save the animals, no human would have to die.

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