Blast to the Northern frontier where Ruto, Raila fights matter less

Last week, a few of my friends and I took a road trip to Garissa town. Our destination was a remote village in Wajir South Constituency.

So we drove on black tarmac for 366kms and for nearly 200kms off-road. For one or two of us, it was the first time driving through swathes of sand, sun and thicket.

At the end of the journey – where we drove through one of the most treacherous routes in the country- we saw ourselves less as survivors, but as adventurers as is often the norm.

Our second leg on rough road, took us to Saaldig. By any measure, Saaldig is a village struggling with challenges similar to those in most nomadic communities, including poor infrastructure and lack of pasture. They lack water and electricity. The nearest hospital is miles away. Woo unto you if you fall sick.

The area is teeming with large herds of reticulated giraffes, gerenuk antelopes and other precious wildlife. We were amused that the hyena is not regarded as a threat but rather, as a nuisance. Small children chase them away when they come too close to the herds.

Despite not seeing Kenya Wildlife Services officers, the local community assured me that consuming game meat is considered taboo.

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People who consume game or hunt them for treasures are considered outcasts. This has helped conserve this precious wildlife. The community borehole is guarded jealously. It has made life bearable for both human and animals.

 Young lad

Man, his livestock and the wild game all have their turn at the well. That is done with little commotion. In the evenings, the watering hole is surrendered to the animals of the wild.

This schedule is followed quite rigorously and faithfully. We helped ourselves to copious amounts of camel milk and generous portions of the tastiest goat meat ever.

Quite intriguing, the people of this village are not worried or concerned about national politics; they seemed lost in their own world. I asked a young lad, whether he knew who Raila Odinga or William Ruto were and he shook his head and walked away. So, all the talk about corruption, good governance and a referendum is unknown in this community? I asked myself.

I just think that they are preoccupied with grave issues of survival to want to worry about even the so-called handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.

Make no mistake, they are not as backward as we imagine. Garissa – and most of the North – is a bustling region, thanks to devolution. Nowhere else in the country is devolution unleashing great potential than in the region.

Bad governance

So though a strong feeling of being left behind hangs over the community, you can’t help but notice the irony that their sorry state is a consequence of corruption, ineptitude and nepotism in Nairobi.

Things that they seem to care little about. I suppose to them, corruption and bad governance do not have a bearing on livestock farming, their main economic preoccupation.

I asked a few of them about the planned national population and household census. Once again, the response was a gaze. No one actually seems to appreciate the significance of such an important exercise.

Not even when the population numbers determine resource allocations to counties and how development is planned. Besides, one of the questionnaires in the enumeration form is the ethnicity of an individual.

In Kenya the higher the population figures of an ethnic group the higher their political power base. Unfortunately, nomadic communities like those in Saaldig have no idea when and how this exercise will take place. Around the time the census will take place, most of  them will have moved to other areas including crossing into neighbouring Somalia.

August is the jilaal season, meaning it is dry and hot. The villages will empty of most people save for a few elderly ones and young children. This is why in the last census in 2009, more men than women were counted in some parts of the North Eastern Kenya.

Men make most of the old population. I really don’t know why this so. Perhaps sociologists can do some studies to explain this. Besides that and as the census approach, the people of the North need civic education on the importance of being enumerated.

 Mr Guleid is the Executive Director of the Frontier Counties Development Council

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