Nyanza has suffered enough; it's time to chart a new path

When a group of youth protested over the cost of living. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

As families are coming together to celebrate Christmas and New Year, I take this moment to direct the attention of the world to Luo Nyanza because something is happening there and we will not keep quiet.

From the very outset I will surmise that the people, popularly known as the grandchildren of Ramogi (nyikwa Ramogi Ajwan’g), may have to engage in political open-heart surgery or else the region will lose its lustre and identity forever.

I make this assertion very carefully knowing too well that I have been a big proponent of unity. I have preached about building a national community as opposed to sectarianism that has pervaded our politics and social lives for eons.

The four Luo Nyanza counties score very poorly on most if not all the human development indicators such as life expectancy, education and purchasing power parity. This is certainly very sad for there was a time when the lake region was deemed as the little paradise west of the Rift Valley.

While other regions like Mount Kenya have their economic mainstay; coffee and tea form part of their economic and political discourse, the lake region has not a single crop or product to boast of. We killed cotton farming, sugarcane farming went to the dogs, the fishing industry collapsed so much so that there are more fish from China and fish ponds in central Kenya than the fish supply from Lake Victoria.

While I am aware of other global phenomena such as natural resource depletion and the triple planetary crisis, we the children of Ramogi Ajwan’g must ask ourselves, who bewitched us? That once a powerful people, the very Mecca of strength and principle have become a people who are oblivious of their own enlightened self-interest and have left their fate in the hands of political merchants.

To answer this this question, we must first interrogate our politics both for what it has been in our region and for what it could be. Societies have used politics to improve their lot. A case in point is how every regime has had someone forcefully speaking about tea and coffee in Central. During the grand coalition days, Uhuru Kenyatta as deputy prime minister and Minister for Finance had government write off debts in those two sectors.

Today, none other than the deputy president himself is making sure that tea, coffee and dairy sectors can put money in the pockets of the inhabitants of the mountain. Let nobody fool you, Central Kenya region has a level of prosperity that Nyanza region can only dream of.

As our people say, you can only critique your own ram’s tail when you compare it with another. Nyanza from the days of Narc has been mobilised around the never materialising Canaan. Every intellect, imagination and resource has been directed towards fighting imaginary political adversaries at the expense of the people. Widespread poverty has taken root in its wake with the only thriving sector being the boda boda sector. But even this has come at a huge communal cost.

Young people from the region have largely lowered their sights. Pursuit of grander ambitions was pushed to the back-burner and in its place, families are disposing off their ancestral lands, while fragmenting them into tiny parcels that cannot support agriculture as they buy motorbikes. That relief food can be distributed in our backyard today should make us all hang our heads in shame.

But how did we get here? Due to the history of political marginalisation in the from '60s through the '90s, we embraced a unipolar political order where everyone was expected to walk, dance and talk in a particular way failure to which massive doses of violence would be deployed against you. If in doubt, ask James Orengo and Raphael Tuju.

This last week, we saw the same pattern of violence being mobilised against Ker Nyandiko Ongadi, the legitimate chair of the Luo council of elders. To the merchants of violence in Luo Nyanza, we will chart a new path and you will not stop us.

Mr Kidi is the convenor of the Inter-parties Youth forum. [email protected]