LANDSLIDES AND FLOODS

No crocodile tears, build dams

Resources the economy loses through corruption can transform livelihoods.

In Summary
  • Knee-jerk reactions to disasters confirm this government, like others before it, has no will to transform rural livelihoods.
  • This government's priorities do not spring from a desire to satisfy basic needs.
Build dams
Build dams

There is no gallantry or generosity in the co-president, or any other government official, flying to West Pokot on a relief and sympathy mission. Reactive leadership cannot take a people anywhere beyond stagnation.

Online is awash with images of one lot of government officials who took the rough flight to West Pokot to deliver relief supplies. They also witnessed rescue efforts of victims of a landslide. This lot felt heroic and concerned about the deaths of 60 people, destruction of property and collapse of infrastructure.

The other lot didn't go beyond Eldoret. They could not fly in the rough weather. This group was accused of ranking politics above humanitarian concerns of marooned Kenyans in the rough terrain of the northwest. Politics - zero value

 

The losses could have been avoided by a government driven by the desire to change the human condition. Across the border in Uganda, they have dams that control raging waters. Flooding is an opportunity for water harvesting and storage.

Meanwhile destruction mounts, as the death toll grows. Leaders have joined the moaning, crying with victims of official negligence. But they have never had a solution to these challenges. They prefer the status quo. People are easy to cheat when they are vulnerable.

Theirs are crocodile tears, shed by people dancing on the graves of victims of corruption. The resources the economy loses through corruption can transform livelihoods.

Yet the Treasury, in an advertisement last week, is seeking authority to mobilise funds locally and internationally to fund responses to weather-induced emergencies. The irony of it horrifies.

A sample of scandals that are still under investigation illustrates the trouble with Kenya: On February 26, 2018, newspaper headlines screamed, 'You paid Sh21 billion for empty thicket'. This money should have part-financed two dams in Elgeyo Marakwet, a hilly countryside that risks landslides. It is water-starved and prone to disasters.

The dams could have stored water for irrigation, conservation and restoration of the environment. Executives of the Kerio Valley Development Authority are under investigation.     

Taxpayers have been asking about Sh122 billion in Eurobond proceeds. The money allegedly 'got mixed up' with other money. Not even the Auditor General could identify any transformative project the loan funded. But it is a debt Kenyans, including you, will repay.

Kenya Pipeline Company, Kenya Power, the National Youth Service and other public utility companies are under investigation for plunder of billions of shillings. The squandered money could have transformed the lives of victims of landslides.  

The Auditor General estimates Sh300 billion is lost to corruption annually. The tapestry of plunder questions the credibility of people in power; people entrusted with the management of the economy. Yet the Treasury, in an advertisement last week, is seeking authority to mobilise funds locally and internationally to fund responses to weather-induced emergencies. The irony of it horrifies.

When you tell human beings to abandon their homes when clouds gather, you are dehumanising them. You are telling them to forget their heritage. You are treating them like stones without a connection to the ground they occupy. Houses have meaning beyond physical structures. These are homes.      

Meanwhile the people who should protect public money are shedding crocodile tears for victims of landslide in West Pokot. Ancient narratives record that crocodiles shed tears while feasting on their victims. The fact could be physiological, but the expression has a deceptive hue. Shedding crocodile tears is an insincere display of emotions. It's a false sorrow that does not go beyond facial expressions.

Edmund Grindal, Archbishop of York and of Canterbury, used the phrase in 1563, with the implications of insincerity. "I begin to fear, lest his humility ... be a counterfeit humility, and his tears crocodile tears."

The Jubilee regime should know better how to turn floods and droughts into opportunities for national development. Anything less is subversion of national priorities. Knee-jerk reactions to disasters confirm this government, like others before it, has no will to transform rural livelihoods. This government's priorities do not spring from a desire to satisfy basic needs. Its deceptive compassion is reptilian.

Consider the case of a government official advising residents of flood-prone areas to move to higher ground to avoid disasters. The advice has been given to communities around River Nyando in Kano Plains over the years. It's a cynical illustration of alienation.

When you tell human beings to abandon their homes when clouds gather, you are dehumanising them. You are telling them to forget their heritage. You are treating them like stones without a connection to the ground they occupy. Houses have meaning beyond physical structures. These are homes.      

Telling people to flee floods once may be excused, but giving the advice every year when it floods is irresponsible. There is something better people can do with floods, not merely fighting and fleeing when nature runs amok.

[email protected]