Dumping people will not solve problem of street families in Kenyan towns

Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri (left) handing over food donation to Former Nacada Boss John Muthutho (right) at John Muthutho Empowerment Center in Nakuru on February 12, 2019. [Kipsang Joseph/Standard]
In regard to human dignity, Articles 27, 28 and 53 of the Constitution of Kenya should be taken literally. Yet recent events in Nakuru exemplify the bestiality inherent in leaders; people elected to look after the welfare of ordinary citizens, but who have since turned guns on them.

By the victims’ own count, 41 street children, having been duped into believing they were being taken to a place that would offer them a chance for a fair shot in life, ended up abandoned in a forest in Baringo County. Their tormentors might have banked on wild animals doing what they intended, but could not bring themselves to do.

Such bestiality is reminiscent of the reigns of terror during the presidencies of some of Africa’s despots, Idi Amin of Uganda, Jean Bedel Bokasa of the Central African Republic and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire. In 1979, for instance, Bokasa ordered people, including children as young as 8 years, to be rounded up and had them shot. More than 100 children were murdered in what came to be known as the Bangui massacre. Amin had the physically challenged and street families dumped in Lake Victoria. Those atrocities were blamed on them.

The same goes for Nakuru County Governor Lee Kinyanjui; he must take responsibility for the recent inhuman act. As governor, whatever happened could be a reflection of his ideals, and he would be hard pressed to explain how, unknown to him, such could happen under his watch. More poignantly, John Mututho said it is not the first time this has happened in Nakuru.

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Tourist attraction

An excerpt from the Nakuru County Assembly Hansard dated March 13, 2014 reads: “Hawa Hassan (mover), I beg to give a notice of Motion;- THAT, aware that there is an influx of street children within Nakuru county turning into street families; further aware that street children are becoming a concern in our county; deeply concerned that Nakuru county has many tourist attraction sites which sees tourists flock to our town; Further concern that street children exist due to poverty and neglect from the parents. Noting that the children are in need of care and of protection pursuant to Article 53 Sub Article 1 and 2 of the Constitution; this honourable House resolves that the county executive should rehabilitate all the street children at Okoa Mtoto centre at Soilo so that they can live in a secure environment where they can access food shelter and education. Thank you”.

The question arises; what has the county government of Nakuru done to actualise this resolution? Is it possible that while labouring under corruption, the County government sought the easy way out by transferring its burden to Baringo? Nakuru County might not be alone in this ignominy. In October 2015, Uasin Gishu County rounded up 250 street children and dumped them in Busia County. Such lapses cannot be excused under the current constitutional dispensation.

Poverty eradication

It is acknowledged that poverty and neglect often result in children running away from home to populate streets. Indeed, a documentary on street families that aired on KTN recently corroborates this fact. A competent, people-centric leadership would have considered rehabilitating these poor kids instead of abandoning them in a forest, perhaps to be mauled to death by wild animals. Dumping people will not solve Nakuru’s, or any other town’s street families’ problems. Underlying causes that lead to a proliferation of street families must be addressed.

It is the responsibility of both tiers of government, national and county, to introduce, implement and encourage wealth creation activities. Poverty eradication through creation of opportunities and enabling environments for individual advancement should be prioritized. The concept behind Youth and Uwezo funds is good, but the execution is wanting.

Clearly, ineptitude, nepotism and favoritism take an upper hand, in the end, defeating the purpose for which those funds were set aside. Rather than get help from their county governments, what citizens experience is hostility, mostly propagated by county askaris; another menace in society. Both young and old members of society, including the physically challenged, lose what little merchandise they painstakingly put together to start small businesses in the hope of growing, to county askaris.

Mismanaged counties, lacking in development and wallowing in corruption have resorted to punitive taxation that does not favour those starting out as hawkers or mama mbogas. It is preposterous that a mama mboga carrying vegetables whose total value is perhaps Sh100 is required to pay a council fee of Sh50 daily, yet chances are that she might not be able to sell half of what she has. In the end, she is working to enrich the county government.

Taxpayers don’t get value for their money because of devolved corruption through which a few individuals sequester revenue collections. Government, infiltrated by crooks and the never-do-well, is the biggest contributor to poverty and economic retardation in this country.

Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]

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street childrenchemusus forestStreet urchins