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February 21, 2019

2017:Tragedy of the warthog


The Meteorological Department and nature are speaking in the same language this year. The accord should make 2016-17 unforgettable. But

sound memory, or drawing lessons from life’s incidents and accidents, is a rare forte. The Met forecast poor rains throughout 2016, or none in October 2015. This came to pass: the long rains of April-May 2016 failed across the country. The short rains of October-November also failed last year.

The rarely reliable Met got it right. Crops failed in most places during both the long rains season and the short rains season.The unusual happened: Lightning struck one tree twice in a year. 

And 2017, the year of a tempestuous general election, will be a test of the people’s ability to learn from raw, harsh, lived experience.

Politicians have made wild promises of access to clean water, roads, better healthcare, a cleaner environment and an improved learning environment for children. These promises have been tossed around since 1963.

Aspirants for elective positions come with handouts to ice the promises and fool the gullible majority. There are peanuts for the youth, carrots for women and something for jodongo [elders].

The cynical take the promises for what they are: Lies told to win the confi dence of a hapless electorate. Even barely educated MCA aspirants are promising villagers access to clean water, within a year of their election. 

They make the promises in villages where expected government interventions have failed for 53 good years.

“No, do not tell us about water,” the cynical ones say. “Tell us that you know some veterinary doctors who will treat our dogs to stop the spread of rabies.”

Drought, famine, dust, and mendacious politics are playing out across the land in a way that dehumanises and degrades the electorate. Tell them about laptops for schools, where malnourished children learn under trees, and sit on stones. Voters have been manipulated across the years but 2017 is likely to be the worst, especially for farming communities.

In Kaloleni, Kilifi county, peasants are queueing for water. Women take up to three hours to get water. 

They buy it at Sh25 for a 20-litre jerrican. It has not rained for eight months now.  e crisis was predicted two years ago.

In the normally water-rich Kisii highland, rivers, streams and boreholes are drying up. Queues are forming around communal water taps. Poor villagers pay Sh20 for a 20-litre jerrican.

An average household of fi ve people needs up to 100 litres of water for their daily use. In Karachuonyo, dust runs several inches deep. Water

pans have dried up. Animals have ran out of pasture. Daily temperatures hit 33 degrees by midday. The horizon is misty, with enveloping clouds of dust.  The message is ominous —hard times lie ahead. A two-kg tin of maize sells at Sh90.

The next harvest is expected later in August and that is if it rains in March, through April and May.

Meanwhile, peasants are preparing their farms for the long rainy season expected towards the end of March, around the time political parties will be nominating their candidates for the August 8, polls. It’s going to be a long year of drought, hunger, handouts and lies.

At the Sombro-Adhiro site, works on a water pan stalled after the launch in October 2015. The completion was expected in six months. In the same neighbourhood, a poorly constructed water tank at Mirengo Primary School has been in disuse since February 2015.

Pipes were not laid out in trenches dug in 2014. About Sh70 million funding from IFAD, an international NGO, was plundered. But the

aspirants are not talking about this, even those seeking reelection in the face of the massive waste.

Occasionally, aspirants for elective positions, including incumbents, meet villagers around dry water pans to make empty promises, without addressing the basic need. 

Once upon a time, sage philosophers created lessons out of people’s experiences with the warthog. The warthog is such a forgetful animal it risks its own life every time it crawls out of its hole.  is short memory, or lack of it, exposes the warthog to avoidable dangers to its life.

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