Some very frightening happenings in Kenya

Roseleen Nzioka

"An increasingly disenfranchised and poverty stricken urban class is set to be the country’s defining crisis over the next decade, unless the Government and international donors act urgently," said the head of Oxfam GB, Kenya Philippa Taylor, in Nairobi end of last year.

Recent happenings in Kenya are a testimony to Taylor’s words. According to information from the Kenya Red Cross there are approximately 2.1 million youth engaged by one form of militia or other in Kenya. These are 2.1 million young Kenyans who are on standby to cause chaos whenever called upon. They are mercenaries on hire, no less.

No doubt these 2.1 million youth in militia groups are part of the poverty-stricken, disenfranchised group that Taylor was warning about. Other "terror" groups who do not necessarily belong to any militia but can cause just as much death and destruction are mobs of university students (in Nairobi and other towns); mobs of slum dwellers (eg those who regularly uproot the railway line in Kibera); mobs of hawkers and mobs of striking workers just to name a few.

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These groups are not homogenous. Each has its identity, its issues and its unique way of resolving issues. But one common thread that runs through each is the violent streak that manifests itself whenever they organize a "peaceful protest."

Living in Kenya today is like living in a jungle. You do not know when and where the predator will strike. One minute you are driving your car, the next you are running for your life as university students or other disgruntled Kenyans burn your car. Death and destruction are always near. For a country that prides itself in being "an island of peace", it is shocking to view television images of Kenyans with missing limbs, ears and mouths as we did last week when a TV station exposed the brutality meted out on residents of Mt Elgon over the years.

In January something happened in Nairobi that shocked our security forces and us. Right in the central business district of Nairobi, Muslims some reportedly Al Shabaab sympathizers run riot in the name of safeguarding the human rights of a man called Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal.

What scared people was not only the rapid death and destruction that the rioters caused in a span of five hours but more so the brazen action of some of the demonstrators flying the al shabaab flag high in the air! So now it is official that apart from our own home-grown militias, we now have to contend with foreign militias displaying their presence right in the CBD of Nairobi no less!

Aside from riots, there are also economic truths about Kenya that are frightening. Last year Somalia, our neighbour, with all its chaos and madness managed to record higher economic growth than this "peaceful island" called Kenya. Is there a correlation between peace and economic growth? Let the experts tell us.

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And now the big one. The government withdrew the barely implemented welfare scheme for the most vulnerable in the society claiming dependency on free money would encourage laziness or something like that.

I do not know how a 75-year-old poverty-stricken, disease-stricken old man or woman in the village or slums would suddenly become a "lazy and unproductive" member of society if she or he were given KSh1,500 ($20) per month as relief (welfare).

Am still trying to figure that one out.

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