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Suspend campaigns during crises and focus on the economy

By Mohamed Guleid | October 13th 2021
ODM Leader Raila Odinga in Taita Taveta County addressing a rally on March 2, 2021. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

The northern parts of Kenya are being ravaged by a devastating drought that is killing the livestock and has malnourished humans. So far, close to three million are facing severe food and water deprivation.

The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) has given an early warning on the tragedy awaiting the country. President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the drought a national disaster last month and, so far, sad images of animal carcasses have been on mainstream and social media. The saddest part was when I saw video footage of wildlife flocking to the towns to search of water and fodder. Large numbers of people have already moved to the neighbouring countries of Somalia, Ethiopia and Uganda to escape death and starvation.

Against the backdrop of such a severe drought, sadly, our politicians are busy campaigning for an election 10 months away. Without any form of compassion, they spend hundreds of millions to organise big political events instead of focusing on finding ways of combating the drought. The political establishment has no understanding of the challenges its subjects are undergoing.

Slowly, once the poor pastoralists are left with no options but to come and graze their livestock in the cities, that is when reality will hit hard. The invasion of the nomads into large ranches in Laikipia a few weeks ago suggests a rehearsal of what is to come. When thousands of camels start moving into Nairobi, Mombasa, or Nakuru, a conflict is likely to erupt between city dwellers and pastoralist communities.

Most of these livestock-herding communities are armed and are not easily threatened by violence. They are used to constant violence and hardship. It is the people in the towns who are likely to give way.

The political discussions in Kenya are shifting from the usual ethnic competition. For the 2022 polls and beyond, the discourse will be about livelihoods and jobs. Many of the new young voters numbering more than seven million new voters who were born in the last 30 years care less about Kenya’s history.

They want to put food on the table and have a good life. These aspirations of the youth against the economic challenges the country is undergoing are making young people bitter. A protest vote is likely to upset the established politicians. Recently, the prices of fuel and other essential commodities have been skyrocketing. The month-to-month inflation has risen from 6.5 per cent to more than seven per cent. This means people have to survive on less for the amount of money they earned. Cases of people developing mental health problems have increased and the rate of suicide has also gone up. 

Now, the country has been put in a state of campaigns and this means all the elected officials or those aspiring will try to outdo each other. If only the billions being used on campaigns were put in one basket and used for providing water and fodder for the pastoralist communities, the situation would have been more acceptable. It is morally wrong to beg for support from our international development partners when we are already wasting so much money on such a worthless effort. The harsh economic environment coupled with the drought is a recipe for chaos in an election year. 

-The writer is CEO, Frontier Counties Development Council. [email protected]

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