Wednesday, August 17, 2011
The increasing number of starving Somali refugee entering Kenya has been overwhelming, In a country already faced its own starvation, the influx of new arrivals is making the situation worse.
Daadab refugee camp now worlds biggest camp is full leading humanitarian emergency that now threatens thousands of lives. The camp which was meant for 90,000 people, it's current population is expected to be more than four times its capacity.
A sprawling desert in North Eastern Kenya, Daadab, comprises of three camps, Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera camps. Hundreds of new arrivals trek for weeks in the hope that the 'desert camp' will be better than home.
“we come here because there is nothing left at home, there is the fighting and help doesn't get to where we live so we came here” says a mother of three who arrived a few days ago.
On arrival, the new arrivals would queue for long hours in the heat where they await to be given enough supplies to create a make make shift home, cooking utensils, a mat they can sleep on and most importantly ration card where they would be able to get food.
However the huge arrivals doesn't seem to go well with the host community in Northern Kenya as they too fill the pinch of overcrowding by the refugees, as a county they do not have much going on and the situation is made worse.
North Eastern Kenya, home to the camp and mainly Somali residents, has been neglected for a long time by the central government and the residents have had to depend on humanitarian agencies.
Since independent the county has not seen any developments from the government.
The region that has largely remained deserted by the central government since independence, lack of infrastructure among other problems have made the situation worse.
There have been constant rivalries between the residents in North Eastern Kenya and the refugees from the camp.
The residents have complained that the government of Kenya has considered them as refugees, for this reason they have been forgotten and the humanitarian organisations just cater for the refugees needs.
To reduce the constant chaos between the two groups, the humanitarian organisations also started different water projects for the community. Although different humanitarian organisations have raised a red flag and launched international appeal campaign to help raise funds to assist drought hit population, much more still needs to be done.
Failure of the government to plan and focus on long term projects has made the situation unbearable for the residents from the upper North Eastern region, and now it’s worsened by the huge number of refugees streaming in to the country.
The faces of hunger and famine have become part of recurrent shame as drought hits the East African region once again. I have to say, this did not come as a surprise – the writing has been on the wall as early as last year August.
The weather man had predicted that we should be prepared for the hard times ahead and as the region we needed to plan before the situation becomes fatal but due to poor planning and lack immediate help, the situation was made worse.
In the war torn country Somalia, the situation is made worse by the conflicts between the weak transitional government and militant group Al Shabaab which controls much of Southern Somalia.
The group which is said to have links to Al Qaeda have not made it easy for the Somali civilians, even after the famine situation was reported early they blocked outside help from getting into the country.
Fear of killing Aid workers, kidnapping and charging these organisations made the international community worry that they could be funding the group indirectly leading to some of the humanitarian organisations to close down their offices in Somalia.
The fighting and corruption between the Western backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is turning out to be an embarrassment to a country seeking for an international help.
The TFG which lacks the people’s support has failed to put aside policies that would save the population and has instead been accused of prolonging the conflict and famine in Somalia. Corruption and infighting in the government has worsened the situation.
The international community are also to blame. They were briefed and warned of the current situation long before it even started but they have failed to deliver help in time. The situation was getting out of hand with hundreds facing starvation and that’s when the internal community reacted.
Earlier on, military group Al Shabaab taxed food that was coming from the humanitarian organisations, and this made western countries delay funding which would have done something to help the current situation.
The world has undoubtedly responded immensely well to the current situation, but it would be a happy day for everyone if as much focus was placed on long-term programmes to build spirit in communities, as is now on placed feeding the hungry.
Although the current situation can also be blamed on climate change, failure of governments to focus on agriculture and irrigation schemes; until that time when a different approach is taken, the cycle is bound to reoccur.
Suddenly there is drought again! Although some the pictures we see once again maybe shocking this is perennial shame that we face each year as a country. Personally am no stranger to stories of people, including children dying due to starvation.
I have witnessed animals dying in their hundreds, sometimes in their thousands, men and women suffering from scorching sun with no water to quench their thirst. But this year, the situation has gotten out of hand.
Ethiopia, Somalia and northern Kenya is facing its worst drought in 60 years with 10 million people said to face starvation and the UN reporting this as an ‘emergency situation’.
During this time, as much as I wish I was in Kenya covering first hand about the situation in the region, am instead in the UK attached to one of the biggest newspaper in the world The Guardian and I can only rely on information I get by friends and contacts in the ground and the stories I read about the situation, but then again again I can actually relate to it.
In Kenya, the situation could have been avoided, the dry spell was long predicted and the government could have acted sooner but as always we never act until the situation gets desperate.
Personally I have the Kenyan government to blame, they have failed to invest in arid and semi-arid areas which has caused the regions to be perennially vulnerable to drought.
Once you are in the region you will feel the absence of infrastructure and basic services such as health and education. The limit access to national and international market has made the lands vulnerable.
Two years ago, National Drought Contingency Fund was formed to accumulate money for drought responses during good years and quickly disburse it during times of need, but this was never to happen.
Despite the presence of drought warning system, the government strategies remain gloomily wanting, therefore the country is again caught unprepared and in dire need of humanitarian crisis.
Earlier this year through its Ministry of Agriculture, the government reported that there was food stock to last for almost a year and contingency measures were put in place following drought forecasts.
Four months after the announcement, 3.5 million are facing starvation in the country begging the question where did the stock go?As if it’s not bad enough with the worst crisis of drought, famine emerge at a time when the food prices have risen to an alarming level.
The situation is made worse by the hundreds of refugees arriving from Somalia who flee the war torn country crossing the border into Kenya in one of the biggest refugee camp which is now on the verge of collapse because of its high population.
The biggest setback faced by Kenya like many other African countries, is lack of forward planning and inadequate response to crisis.
This should serve as a lesson to the Kenyan government and the East Africa as a whole, a contingency plan for food security should be planned given the known of drought cycle.
Urgent reviews of the food security policy and its sustainability should again be planned and anything short of this would spell a vicious cycle of more doom come next year.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Currently one of the top artistes in Eastern Africa, his entry into the public eye has been far from easy. Yet, Kidum 36 has cemented his position as one of East Africa’s most versatile singer as well as skilful master drummer of his time.
Born in 1974 in the remote village of Kinama, Northern Burundi, the artist whose real name is Jean Pierre has overcome the hurdles that would have discouraged many.
Kidum wasn’t special or so he thought. He describes his childhood as average but one who had a deep fascination for music ever since he could remember.
That’s how his pursuit for drums begun. “All I could find were some buckets we used at home for washing, I upturned one of them, took two sticks and started hitting them according to the beat of the music as it played.” He says.
When he was only 12 years, he played in church and one of the famous Burundian musician spotted him Kidum admits that this was his platform and after 5 years with the band he left for another band, Electric Power which only lasted for while before the war started and he had to flee escaping the war.
Burundi, one of the world's poorest nations, is now emerging from a 12-year, ethnic-based civil war. The ethnic violence sparked off in 1994 made Burundi the scene of one of Africa's most difficult conflicts although its now on the recovery process, it faces the formidable tasks of reviving a shattered economy and of forging national unity.
Its is when the war broke out that Kidum found himself in refugee status destined for Kakuma refugee camp where he stayed for a while before moving to Nairobi, a camp where most of his country mates are after they escaped from the war. “I was alone only 21 years and I followed another group that was coming to Nairobi but we headed to Kakuma first and I found my way to Nairobi” he says
On arrival in Nairobi, he visited several studios being turned away as he understood very less of both Swahili and English but he was taken by one producer and he has since picked up.
Born from a Tutsi mother and Hutu father, Kidum is out with his guitar to pass the tall order of peace in the softest language.
He says that although he did not make it as a politician, he continues to sing for peace in his home country hoping that one day people would learn to live in peace
Back in his home country Kidum is an icon of hope and reconciliation to the many who have been caught up in the long standing civil war in between the Hutu and Tutsi bribes in Burundi.
His first album, Yaramenje (2001), established Kidum as the voice of peace in the Great Lakes region. He followed it up with the hugely successful Shamba album, released in 2003. Ishano (poison) released October 2006 by Soundafrica,
Things went from bad to worse even after releasing his third album, Ishano.
A few videos later, and persisting with his band to the extent of playing for free in pubs, by 2007, fans started appreciating his music.
In a series of homecoming concerts staged in October 2006 in both Burundi and Rwanda, Kidum received standing ovations and praise from Rwandese President, Paul Kagame for his song Amosozi (tears).
After the peace concerts, Kidum was named the honorary ‘prefect’ of musical and creative arts in Bujumbura after a series of countrywide performances in 2007.
His fourth and latest album features songs, like Mshoma, a wedding song and in this he teams up with Nameless in Greedy and Nitafanya with Tanzanian diva Lady Jay Dee.
The peace ambassador has also released songs with a Rwandan born Frankie Joe about peace, War and Hunger mostly focusing on real life issues.
The vocal prowess exhibited in his songs is unmistakable and will leave you yearning for more.
Even as Kidum has no doubts saying his band is among the best, he is afraid that his smooth success has come with enemies.
In February this year, there was a rumour mills that Kidum had died.
But he adds that this will not make him fall and will continue giving his music and fans his all for he believes that he has the power to do it and only God can give him the strength.
Choosing the plight of the marginalized to taking the next flight out; story of MP Joseph Lekuton
For many they would kill for an opportunity of studying in one of the most prestigious university in the world – Harvard but not the Laisamis Member of Parliament who has instead choose to continue representing his people as an MP as preferred to going and do a doctorate in the United States.
Representing one of the marginalized community in the country, this was a God send opportunity for the youthful MP but after hearing the cries of his people who do not wish him to go, he is staying.
For many, in Laisamis area, accessing education is a privilege of a few. Coupled with lack of schools and the regions culture education is a pipe dream for many.
Many boys had pictured their lives as Maasai warriors and cattle herders. If you are among the lucky few to get education, one had to walk for hours to get to the nearest school and toppled with lack of money discouraged many.
This was the case of the now area MP Lekuton, a man who defied all odds and pursued education to the highest level in the best of the best universities in the world.
Lekuton who did his degree in Education at Harvard University has now got a scholarship to do his doctorate at Harvard.
The Maasai born Joseph Lekuton shot at education was by ‘accident’ after his older brother who was chosen to go to school but he did not want.
At the age of 6, he had already started his education at the missionary boarding school in Laisamis.
8 years later, Lekuton finished his primary education but he could not continue his education due to lack of school fees. But fate as fate would have it, former President Daniel Moi happened to know about the young Lekuton and offered him a scholarship at the Kabarnet secondary school.
He then cleared his A levels doing well in his final exams and got a job at bank as a clerk. The young Lekuton then received a letter of admission at St Lawrence University in the US under the scholarship for the African Students.
After telling his mother who still leaves at a cow dung hut about the news she promised to do whatever it takes to get his ticket so that his son could get education he needed.
His family then sold most of his cattle’s and the rest of the villages helped and he got his ticket to the United States. In four years, Lekuton graduated from St. Lawrence with both a bachelor's in economics and government and a master's degree in education at Harvard University all under a scholarship programme.
He then worked as history teacher in Washington DC at one of the schools in the United States. He was then named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work in sharing the culture of Kenya with America, including efforts to share educational resources with nomadic children through the BOMA Fund and Cows for Kids.
“He was then sponsored by the National Geographic to write a book called Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna which was used to educate about the challenges of Nomadic community in Kenya.
Its in 2006, that he made up his mind to come and run for political a position he says he would be able to serve the people who helped him pay for the tickets to get his education.
After the plane crash killed the area MP died in a plane crash, he vied for the position during the by election and he won. As a first timer in the 10th parliament he has recorded impressive record building boreholes in Loyangalani, Merile and in Laisamis town.
His passionate actions have led to a number of accolades and prestigious awards, including Kenya's Order of the Grand Warrior, a presidential award for exemplary service to his nation.
For a region that had largely remained deserted by the central government since independence, the ushering of a new constitution that provides a new system of governance came as a sign of liberation for the residents.
Marsabit County that brings together 4 constituencies in Kenya Northern frontier are can now breathe a sign of relief that at last the power to decide how resources will be distributed now lays in the hands of the residents.
Even before it became a country, the larger Marsabit district was one of the biggest districts with the size of central and western provinces combined.
Once made up of North Horr, Saku and Laisamis constituencies, the Marsabit County will now include the Moyale constituency. This home to the nomadic community that has faced challenges with questionable help from the central government.
Water being the salvation for any life is a rare commodity and only found on shallow wells. Now with the county edition, the residents will be able to hold their leaders accountable.
Insecurity has also been a major source of fear and the most horrific being the 2005 Turbi massacre where hundreds were killed. The incident which took place in July 12that saw thousands of people mostly from the Gabra clan killed by Borana tribesmen.
It has been referred to as one of the deadliest instance of ethnic violence in Kenya. the people killed were buried in mass graves in Turbi desert.
The infrastructure also comes as a major challenge for the one who would have the responsibility to run the county. The road which has taken decades to be built only reaches a few kilometers after Isiolo.
The closest that the tarmarcked road reaches is the town called Merille 150km away from Marsabit country and clearly poses a challenge to the person who will be incharge.
Good health care in Marsabit and its far flang areas of Kargi, Korr, Turbi among others is a pipe dream for many, with no hospitals and lack of facilities, health care poses as a challenge.
The Marsabit county despite being a deserted region in Kenya has a lot to offer in terms of untapped tourist destination. Marsabit is home to one of true desert in Kenya, a scenic picture despite its bareness lies the Chalbi Desert. The desert is located east of Lake Turkana, the largest permanent lake in the world.
This barren vastness stretches 100km from east to west is also a possible Oil area. While here we meet international oil explorers who have flocked the area hoping to smack the black gold.
“We have been here for the last month, we have visited several areas and although so far there is nothing but we are still here for sometime hoping we would get something” says Pian chinc from African Oils a company that has been commissioned for the work.
A ride towards Loyangalani town on the shores of Lake Turkana is a spectacle, lake in a desert is itself amazing but this one with its dramatic scenery even more so.
Foreign tourists flock the area and at the far end enjoying themselves.
The arid beauty of the giant Lake Turkana spreading out in the desert landscape will impress you.
Loiyangalani, Now a cosmopolitan community of Rendille, Samburu, El Molo, and growing numbers of Turkana all depending on fish from the Lake.
The Lake could support a lucrative fishing industry.
At the far end of the town where there is Elmolo bay desert museum stands, behind the lone structure is the vast Lake Turkana stretching more than 150 km, Less than 30 kilometers east of Loiyangalani is Mount Kulal.Kulal is one of three International Biosphere Reserves in Kenya.
The location is always windy but from time to time, sudden wind whip down from Kulal to the lake turning its placid waters into a tempest in minutes. The track passes Loiyangalani and leads to the headquarters of Kenya's most remote National Park, Sibiloi, at AIia Bay.
Recently the area has become a home to Kenya’s second wind power generator after Gitson Energy secured financing from the US.
The new constitution has aroused interest among some individuals who want to be in charge of the country that is a multibillion livestock industry.
Potential candidates who have shown their interest in the county seat are Jarso Jillo Falana Marsabit Women Advocacy and Development Organisation Programme Coordinator, Nuria Agollo, Molo Adika who works for Arid area in Moyale and Alice Kureya a Development Officer for an International NGO who will be expected to transform the county.
In some of most strategic intersection of Sudan's capital Khartoum, there are huge campaign billboards with the picture of President Omar al-Bashir, and next to him there are two wedding rings.
One ring is black and the other one is white, the two are held together by a ribbon with the colors of Sudan's national flag.
The black ring symbolises the country's south, mainly inhabited by black African tribes, while the white one represents the mainly Arab north.
It's a message the incumbent president wants no one to miss, one he continually hyped up during a vigorous and well organised campaign that took him to most parts of the country: that he will keep the country united at whatever cost.
But unity is what seems to elude Sudan by the day.
The referendum is part of the 2005 peace deal that brought to an end more than two decades of civil war fought over ethnicity, oil, religion and resources.
Intended to set Sudan on the path to democracy and make unity more attractive to the people of the south, the polls seem to be going against the very intentions for which they were included in the peace deal.
Al-Bashir has publicly stated that he would accept secession.
"If the result of the referendum is separation, the Khartoum government will be the first to recognise this decision. We will support the newborn government in the south," he said in January while addressing a public meeting in the south.
Many doubt he is sincere, however.
Division will be a bitter pill for him to swallow.
Most of Sudan's oil is in the south and he would not want to be seen as the man under whose watch Sudan got divided with the possibility of follow-on Balkanization looming large.
South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, in particular, are a grave concern as both have previously fought alongside the south.