When Kajiado County Governor, Dr David Nkedianye, assumed office in 2013, one of his first acts was to issue a moratorium on land sale by the indigenous Maasai Community.
This was crucial in empowering people indigenous to Kajiado for if the current trend is not checked, the indigenous Maasai, particularly those in Kajiado County, will have little to show for their precious God-given resources in 50 short years. The aim should not be stop individuals from selling off their land but to empower them so they can get appropriate value from each sale and have a proper plan on how to invest the proceeds.
Such affirmative action, however, must take into consideration the role of the large immigrant communities who have settled mainly in Kajiado North. Areas such as Ongata Rongai, Olkeri, Nkaimurunya, Oloolua and Ngong, which between them have a population of 195,746 per the 2009 census, are mainly occupied by non-indigenous people. Their numbers could have grown significantly considering the rapid growth of suburbs around Nairobi County.
Like the stories of many immigrant populations elsewhere, the Kajiado north immigrants have found incredible success as investors in various sectors of the economy. A 2013 report by the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) named Kajiado as the richest county in Kenya while a 2015 World Bank report named it as the third richest with a GDP per capita of $1,466.
Despite this wealth, both the indigenous people and immigrants face myriad challenges which must be addressed gradually and strategically to ensure all residents are full partakers in the county’s fortunes. Deliberately addressing these challenges could go a long way in stopping the situation from unraveling as was witnessed a while ago in Kitengela when indigenous people fought with immigrants over allocation of market stalls.
Taking the example of Ongata Rongai, it has become one of the most difficult places to live in the Nairobi metropolitan area. A typical Rongai resident who works in Nairobi spends up to six hours a day in traffic. The impact on people’s families, workers’ health and the county economy is too grave to ignore. Many hotel and restaurant owners complain of loss of business as Nairobians keep away for fear of being stuck in traffic.
The dualling of Magadi from Bomas to Magadi town is now long overdue. But even before converting the narrow road into a dual carriage, there are lots of bypasses and link roads which could disperse traffic if upgraded to make them motorable all year round.
Ongata Rongai also suffers from what has been called ‘blackout Thursday’ when all businesses that depend on electricity go on forced holiday. The lack of a central sewerage system is a health disaster waiting to happen. Owners of apartment blocks routinely release raw sewage onto the streets and nearby rivers.
Regarding the indigenous Maasai who mainly reside in the rural areas owing to their main economic activity of livestock rearing, affirmative action must be entrenched in the county bylaws to help bring the Maasai to the same level or near the same level as the immigrants. The County should help them access local and foreign beef and leather markets, education, healthcare and alternative economic activities in the face of dwindling pasture and water resources.
No segment of the Kajiado county population should be condemned to suffer. What is required is proper planning, openness and effective leadership, particularly at the county government level.
Gori is a resident of Ongata Rongai and Chairman of the Kiserian and Ongata Rongai Residents Association