The writer, MR. IBRAHIM RASHID, is an analyst of political and development matters and can be seen on the below photo.
I was overwhelmed by reactions and debate my article: Why ODM party polls for March are ill-timed in NEP triggered both nationally and internationally and all are in agreement. And in concurrence, Parliament last Tuesday discussed a Motion to declare the drought a national disaster and the very next day, President Kibaki called a Cabinet meeting and ordered food be dispatched to the drought-stricken areas using military helicopters, vehicles and those of National Youth Service. The Prime Minister has most recently made a whirlwind tour of Upper Eastern and North Eastern Province to assess the drought situation.
Although these efforts are appreciated, they are too little too late, since the few surviving livestock from Mandera East to Wajir West have crossed to either Ethiopia or Somalia in search of pasture and water. Children cannot go to school for lack of fees and those in primary drop from school to follow their parents who have crossed international borders in search of basic life. But the mind-boggling concern is that the flurry of responses are not panacea to the region’s permanent and cyclic disaster. Or is it just politicians following media cameras? Yes, it was the media that highlighted the plight of the region and not the Government institutions entrusted with such responsibility. It’s only on two occasions that this region makes national news —the first, when there is death of people and livestock from famine and thirst, and secondly, a few months prior to general elections and presidential candidates crisscross the region making hollow promises.
Then the refrain from Wajir and Mandera residents is pleas to every presidential candidate for a tarmac road — which is almost always pledged, with assurances that funding would be sought from some or other Arab (Muslim) country. Why Arab is not clear since these residents are also Kenyans and can get money from the Exchequer like the Thika super highway. Which way will NEP face after Kibaki’s term ends? Does the new constitutional dispensation mean anything to the region’s hopes and aspirations? If the 2007 ODM and PNU manifestos remained empty proposals presented vaguely and made little impact, won’t voters scrutinise those presented in 2012 by political parties? Will the new Constitution unlock some sort of "Marshall Plan" with deliverable timelines, akin to the European recovery programme of 1947–1951? The Marshall Plan was a roaring success that lent fresh impetus to reconstruction of Western Europe. This is the direction post-Kibaki northern Kenya needs to face. Sample this: Northern Kenya needs Devolved Government and resources and an end to marginalisation. Eighteen of the 20 poorest constituencies, where between 74 to 97 per cent of people live below the poverty line, are in Northern Kenya.
A Marshall Plan should guarantee inclusion, security, economic integration, political leverage, and address the challenging natural environment. North Eastern Province needs attention by key stakeholders, a proper understanding of its potential, and a deliberate political commitment to address them. Its hidden wealth includes its strategic geographical position, social and cultural attributes that make it well positioned to benefit from surplus capital from the Gulf and the Arab world. It would be one of the fastest-growing parts of the world if Wajir Airport were to be fully privatised so trade in livestock and other livestock products could make their way to international markets. In fact, Garissa is one of the counties earmarked as a cluster for meat and hides processing zone.
Thirdly, there is tourism, as several game reserves and national parks are found here. Also, NEP is bursting with natural resources, right from mineral exploration, unlimited wind and solar energy. And for the region to be relevant in the 2012 Kibaki succession, it might just need to identify a regional kingpin to rally focus in that general direction, both politically and economically, like other parts of the country have done. And there is no shortage of contenders.