History gives testament experiment with Jubilee was near fatal fiasco

It took photojournalist Mohamed Amin’s resolve to draw the world’s attention to the suffering of Ethiopians in 1984. Between 1983 and 1985, debilitating drought and the resultant famine hit Ethiopia, but because the oppressive military leadership regulated news out of the country, it took long before the world was notified and later galvanized into action to save the situation. But even as the horror leaked to the world, the Government denied such a thing existed. By the time the famine ended, the death toll stood at 1.2 million people.

Sadly, we are reliving that experience, and possibly headed the Ethiopian way if denials and pronouncements by senior government officials are anything to go by. The Media, having highlighted the problem, is being vilified for being sensational by those who would rather have this ignominy remain secret; for it exposes their hypocrisy.

It takes a special type of callousness for an individual just out of an air conditioned office to claim the situation in areas where temperatures average 40 degrees Celsius is under control, therefore no cause for panic. It takes a heart of stone to deny that Kenyans are dying of starvation and attribute the said deaths to other causes without specifically stating what those other causes are. 

Fathom this; temperatures in Nairobi average 29 degrees Celsius, yet threaten to turn the grey matter in our skulls into jelly. What would 40 degrees Celsius, minus food, water and hope do to an individual? Even as a rhetorical question, how did we get to this point? Among other factors, and to a larger extent, this is attributable to a dysfunctional Jubilee government at war with itself. On average, causation of famine includes population imbalance, war, inflation, crop failure and myopic government policies.

More calamities

Apart from the listed causes; absent today in the affected areas, what stands out like a sore thumb is extremely poor government planning. Today, despite repeated warnings and useful bulletins from the meteorological department, the inertia in a government more reactionary than proactive portends more calamities. From ravaging drought, the prospects of floods, for which again billions of shillings will be allocated, loom large. In 2016, for example, Sh15 billion was set aside to mitigate effects of El Nino, but it was towards the tail end of the season hence, whether that money was gainfully used remains unknown. However, in light of cases of corruption that spring up every other day, the likelihood of that money having been misappropriated remains high.

Arguably, there is no shortage of food in Kenya; not when farmers in the Rift Valley are stuck with maize that most likely will go to waste from primitive storage methods after government refused to buy it; not when farmers in Kitui could not find a market for their green grams and large quantities of potatoes go to waste in Central Kenya. The Government is simply inept in ensuring that the distribution of food precludes disadvantaging some areas, especially in the north where not just climatic conditions, but rampant insecurity, which the government is completely unable to tame, do not encourage agricultural production.

Climatic conditions

Even with ministries and departments that ideally should link the Government to every single facet of our lives and ensure proper planning, the government remains dysfunctional. It has no touch with reality on the ground because leaders would rather politic; scheme for positions they will individually benefit from than concern themselves with the plight of the commoners. Belatedly, Sh2 billion has been hastily set aside for food and water aid to 850,000 people in Arid and Semi-Arid areas, but you can be guaranteed that characteristically, most of it will disappear. In the past, government agents were accused of redirecting and selling food meant for aid while some of it ended up in orphanages far removed from where the aid was directed.

Kenya is groaning under a curse of leadership.  A leadership that has problems with the study of history because history has precedents in which solutions to our problems lie. Take the Ethiopian famine for example. From history we know the causes, what should have been done to arrest the situation, and how it was finally overcome.  Stopping learners from benefiting from historical facts is an extremely futile attempt to kill our past. It is from history that we constantly learn of our leaders’ shortcomings and rarely, fortes. Kenya’s history between 2013 and 2019 is testament that the Jubilee experiment was a near fatal fiasco for Kenyans. It has been one failure after another. One falsehood after another. One scandal after another and a manifesto that never got past the paper stage.

Those entrusted with leadership lack the requisite temperament; knowing when to engage and when not to. What we have are pseudo leaders with bees up their bonnets, so insincere and economical with the truth it will be a monumental blunder to ever elect them again.

Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]

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