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National government has failed Turkana

By Alexander Chagema | Published Thu, March 16th 2017 at 00:00, Updated March 15th 2017 at 19:25 GMT +3

Lately, President Uhuru Kenyatta has been an agitated man. In Turkana County last week, objective sentiments and genuine concerns raised by Governor Joseph Nanok saw him blow his top.

But even as Kenyatta was fuming, it was him who, in October 2016, asked Parliament to adjust oil revenue due to counties from the proposed 10 per cent to 5 per cent.

Days later in Mombasa, the President’s handlers dreaded a confrontation with Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho sufficiently enough to send General Service Unit personnel to ensure the governor remained under confinement for the duration of the President’s rally.

That is how low the top has stooped and given in to fear. Power derived from the people is now being wrongly wielded to infringe on individual freedoms and rights embedded in the Constitution.

In Myanmar (formerly Burma), a petite brave lady; Aung San Suu Kyi became a thorn in the flesh of President U Ne Win, challenging him to embrace and espouse the principles of democracy. In 1989, she got confined to house arrest, with short breaks, for a total of 15 years.

A stone throw away in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni only feels man enough to strut around in his ridiculous sombrero when Kizza Besigye is safely tucked away in some jail or when several battalions of the army have him quarantined in his home. That’s where we are now.

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The Turkana incident was not only shameful, it was esteem-eroding on the presidency; the symbol of national unity.

That spat led to another ignominy. A commissioner of the feckless National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) waded in, trying to rationalise Uhuru’s outburst.

That the commissioner felt constrained to defend Uhuru because “he is human, therefore bound to get angry at times and lose his temper” is the most warped thinking this year to date.

The thinking presupposes individuals who have appeared before NCIC over hate speech or incitement charges are either sub-human or are not legally permitted to indulge the human emotion of getting angry, in which case I challenge NCIC to point me to the relevant law.

Because only corpses are beyond human emotions, the superficiality of NCIC is underscored by such jejune statements. It is not in the province of NCIC to explain and excuse what leaders say.

It is preposterous to expect Governor Nanok to have elevated Turkana County to the level of say, Nairobi County in four short years when successive regimes, spanning over 50 years, let it go to the dogs.

What consigns Turkana and adjoining areas to backwardness are banditry, cattle rustling, incessant fights over pasture, politically driven pogroms, illiteracy and food insecurity. These cannot encourage or coexist with development initiatives.

To date, the national government has spectacularly failed to guarantee security and peace in Turkana, yet we all know security is a function of the national government.

Requisite infrastructure for schools and health centres are missing. Accessibility difficult because prior to devolution, nobody thought Turkana was worthy of good roads or connection to the national power grid.

Government presence in Turkana for decades has been gun-toting policemen and chiefs.

Couple this with little and late disbursement of funds to counties and it becomes crystal clear why devolution is on the slow lane in some areas.

But let’s give credit where it is due; under devolution, tangible gains are discernible in what have traditionally been regarded as backward areas, barring rampant insecurity.

Our leadership has no idea how to guarantee security in traditional trouble spots beyond the unleashing of terror through security operations that last a couple of days, weeks at most.

Despite a shoot-to-kill order and a security operation, bandits still have the luxury of raiding West Pokot, Baringo and Turkana.

The national government has no idea how to give these volatile areas a fighting chance to catch up with other counties developmentally.

I am enamoured of Israel, a country that despite all the costly distractions from excitable neighbours, has reclaimed a land that was 90 per cent desert to a point where it produces surplus food.

Egypt depends on the Nile waters whose source is Lake Victoria and still comes to our rescue when we are starving and being mesmerised by the water hyacinth choking Lake Victoria.

MPs and MCAs have spent billions of shillings supposedly on benchmarking missions abroad. I'm yet to see the positive impact those wasted trips have on our lives.

Such money should have been put to better use determining how purely desert countries like Dubai and Saudi Arabia record phenomenal growth and don’t report deaths from famine.

It would have been worthwhile studying what policies make these countries succeed where we cannot despite our better climatic conditions and geographical location.

Let’s start with better fiscal management policies and a focused leadership. This ‘snake-mongoose’ liaison won’t take us anywhere.