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The border village that Kenya forgot

By Bakari Ang'ela | July 22nd 2020

An abandoned dispensary at Nawautos, Turkana County, near the Kenya-Uganda border. [Bakari Angela, Standard]

Residents of Nawautos village in Turkana County have complained against what they deem to be systematic marginalisation by both the county and national governments.

The villagers have to cross the border into neighbouring Uganda to seek medical services and have been without an assistant chief for four years now.

A dispensary constructed by the county government at Kalobeyei ward has been abandoned because there is no personnel. Villagers rely on Komion Health Centre in Uganda.

The only other alternative is to travel 20 kilometres to Oropoi in Turkana West to access medical services.

So used to accessing essential services from across the border that some of the villagers now say they do not feel Kenyan anymore.

“It is only a few years ago that I realised I was Kenyan. We always cross over to Uganda for everything,” said Margaret Nasuroin.

To compound their problems, the area has had no local government administrator for the last four years after the assistant chief retired. Even before this, the area chief had died a year earlier.

The nearest administrative centre where villagers can access government services is in Kalobeyei, 59 kilometres away.

The absence of a government administrator has made settling disputes among the villagers a major challenge.

“Without a chief people have resorted to the law of the jungle. It is dangerous but we have no option,”  said Lokol Napeirot.

The entire ward where the village sits does not have a single police post.

Recent government guidelines to curb the spread of Covid-19 have also gone unheeded. Some villagers said they did not even know that the disease exists.

The entire village is not covered by any mobile phone network.

“We live in darkness - we do not have radios. We did not even know about coronavirus. We only heard about it recently after Uganda authorities denied us access to their health facilities. We don’t know what is happening in Kenya,” said Napeirot.

Kalobei ward rep Joseph Nyanga claimed that some residents had applied for the positions of chief and assistant chief in 2018, but the process was later cancelled.

Nyanga said the absence of a police post in the ward complicated the fight against crime.

“People walk more than 20 kilometres to Oropoi to report criminal cases,” he said.

Turkana County Commissioner Muthama Wambua said the villagers cross over to Uganda because it is nearer.

Wambua said the government advertised the position of assistant chief last month, but no one applied.

The county commissioner said he toured the village on May 11 to sensitise locals on coronavirus, but could not cover the entire area.

“We have also discovered that residents are crossing over to Uganda to take alcohol. We are doing everything possible to ensure that government services are brought closer to the people,” he said.

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