By Mohamed Dakane
Anytime the name Northern Kenya is mentioned in the news, one would not stray to figure out what the substance of the bulletin would be all about. Am saying so because anytime this region hits the limelight; it is all for the wrong reasons. The content would be an astonishing recount of either cattle-rustling if not banditry, inter-clan clashes if not terrorism, poverty if not famine and obviously dismal performance in national examination if not mass cancellation et cetera. That is why our conjecture often times proves to be true if not anything similar. Which begs the question, is this particular part of the country finding itself in this situation by default or by design? I think a cursory look at its history would stand us in good stead to answer this question with much more certainty.
As many will concur with me, Northern Kenya, formally known as Northern Frontier District (N.F.D) is truly a region with a dark and mysterious history full of fascinating and grim recounts of betrayal, subjugation, oppression and marginalization. Right from the intrusion of European colonial settlers to the successive black administrations, this region has never felt any kind reprieve. Instead the region was only alienated and further pushed to the periphery in virtually all aspects of development. The black administration that was supposed to free them from the yokes and manacles of colonial administration only perfected the bestial acts of their predecessors and further condemned the region and its entire inhabitants to eternal doom, forcing them to call their tenure as ‘black colonialism’.
Gross human rights violation and litany of extra judicial killings characterized their entire tenure. Historical injustices that resulted in killings of genocidal proportions such as Wagalla, Malka Mari and Garissa gubay are just but a few of the hostilities meted out on the innocents inhabitants of this region by these regimes instead of protecting them. To be honest, these successive regimes confined the region into an abyss of desperation from which to date, it has not yet got itself out of and still nothing of remedial nature seems to be in the offing. That is why, when the rest of the regions celebrated the golden jubilee, this part of the country had virtually nothing tangible to be proud of. If anything, it was 50 years of internal annihilations. That is why the region is still wallowing in poverty, its infrastructure dilapidated, its education standards miserably poor and most interestingly, its health centers deserted on the grounds of lack of facilities and trained medical practitioners.
“In this new constitutional order, we have been given lemon, let’s make lemonade and stop crying for oranges. It is time governors, senators, women reps, M.Ps and other leaders of this region and its entire inhabitants prove their worth by reversing the worrying trend that was the hallmark of our region for decades. As they say, nothing is impossible with a willing heart” – Mohamed Dakane
This clearly demonstrates that the pathetic and sorry state of affairs currently characterizing Northern Kenya is neither by default nor by mistake but by design. What a sad reality.
That being the bitter facts, most the ‘Northerners’ now believe that they are tottering on the brink of collapse and that their entire existence is on the verge of destruction. I want to say most emphatically that this is just but ad populum fallacy being peddled by few doomsayers who are the enemies of our region. The era of heaping the blame on the central government or pointing accusing fingers on authorities who are thousands of kilometers away is over. Thanks to the new constitution that ushered in devolved system of governance. It is high time now this region turns a new leaf and start on a clean slate to redeem its image and bring itself at par with the rest of the country.
However realizing this will not be a walk in the park as many would imagine. It will be herculean experience of engaging in massive exercise of socio-economic and political reconstruction by all parties, Leaders and electorates alike. Absolute commitment and total dedication towards this noble course is the only way that would see us realize the exalted status we all cherish to have, ill advised clan-clashes and political polarization that we have started with has no place in this time and age especially in our region which lags behind in virtually all aspects of developments. If anything, these medieval and archaic methodologies of gaining political supremacy to suppress and oppress others is totally misplaced within the realities of contemporary world. It is high time we become pound wise and penny foolish.
Governors and other elected leaders should lead from the front and distribute the county resources equally so that no single clan feels they are disenfranchised in any way. That is the primary spirit of devolution. Northern Kenya governors and other elected leaders within this region should not go berserk like their counterparts of the other counties to pillage the county purse; those other governors might be justified to do that if indeed regional development is anything to go by. But for governors of Northern Kenya to claim mansion house, posh offices, sleek cars and stately recognition when their electorates are languishing in poverty just next door would not only be a mockery of the highest order but also a show of absolute dearth of rational faculty on their part.
It is therefore incumbent upon all leaders who fronted themselves to be the servant of the people to show their sincerity by embarking on issues that would propel and catapult our region to the next level. In this new constitutional order, we have been given lemon, let’s make lemonade and stop crying for oranges. It is time governors, senators, women reps, M.ps and other leaders of this region and its entire inhabitants to prove their worth by reversing the worrying trend that was the hallmark of our region for decades. As they say, nothing is impossible with a willing heart and as Jonathan Lockwoods rightly said, “the success of a project is best predicted by the enthusiasm of its participants”. I hope with this mantra, after 4 years, Northern Kenya will not hit the headlines for the wrong reasons anymore but for all good reasons. To transform this region from deserted desert of desperation into oasis of prosperity is just but a matter of choice. The ball is in our court to decide our destiny. We have no one to blame. Only time will tell, let’s wait and see.
Mr. Dakane is a Freelance writer and University of Nairobi student.
Acknowledgement: This article first appeared on the Mandera Times.