• One of the reasons Luo Nyanza has turned into the playground of political violence is the large pool of unemployed youth because the critical economic pillars are all dead.
• Though Lake Victoria is the largest fresh water resource in the country, there is very little economic impact on the locals.
The country is gripped with the air of violence and uncertainty created by the political class in the vague and often misused “mass action”.
Whereas many parts of the country will on Monday be watching and or reading about the so-called mass action, we in Kisumu will be doing more than that: We will be deeply affected by the acts of violence and lawlessness.
It is a sad cycle that has deep scars in essentially every home and resident of Kisumu. In the run-up to the August 2022 election, the US embassy issued two alerts that warned their citizens to leave the lakeside city for safer areas.
Last week, we had a foretaste of what to expect when a bunch of youth went to the security barrier near State House Kisumu and snatched the police barrier, dragging it through the city for 2km.
It took the calm response of the police to maintain peace. Otherwise, the intention was to provoke them to use force and make that spark something bigger.
From all angles, what we are facing in Kisumu is called terrorism. When a small group of people, who have a political agenda, engage in acts of violence that keep the larger population in captivity of fear, that's terror.
For President William Ruto and the Kenya Kwanza government to handle the situation in Kisumu and the wider Luo Nyanza, they must look beyond the political class and address several issues that breed the kind of actions we are seeing.
In my opinion, the situation has been created by two major things: The feeling of economic exclusion and bitterness created by the political class.
Whereas President Ruto has initiated several moves that indicate the intention of dealing with the political class, more needs to be done.
The political masterstroke of placing Dr Raymond Omollo in the office that is perceived to be the most powerful in public service will certainly go a long way to remove the feeling of exclusion.
The first step that should be done is to carefully take notes from the 2003 US policy that changed the approach to dealing with terrorism. Dubbed “Draining the Swamps That Breed Terrorism” the US looked at the economic roots of terrorism, direct funding to areas that had large pools of recruits, and use less force.
In 20 years, the overall impact is less terrorism.
One of the reasons Luo Nyanza has turned into the playground of political violence is the large pool of unemployed youth because the critical economic pillars in the region are all dead.
Let me start with the lake.
Though Lake Victoria is the largest fresh water resource in the country, there is the very little economic impact on the locals. They are only used as conveyor belts. Most of the fish processing factories are located 300km away. As if that is not enough, the majority of the fishing gear, boats and cooling plants have very little local ownership.
This can be addressed by intentional funding of local youth groups through the Hustler Fund to enable them to buy fishing gear and build their private cooking facilities. This will remove the need for middlemen who only use the youth as labourers. By empowering them to own the equipment, Kenya Kwanza will have dealt with one big problem.
Second, the government should make a deliberate effort to revive several stalled fish processing factories such as Lake Victoria Fish Factory in Kisumu. In addition, it should ensure the export of fish is done directly from the Kisumu International Airport. Such actions can spur huge investments in fishing both from the lake and ponds, and address the issue of unemployment.
My second point is about the irrigation potential in the region. Dominion Farms was the best example of the sleeping giant that Nyanza is when it comes to food production. In the short time it operated, it produced 20 per cent of Kenyan local rice and was due to produce more before it was kicked out by political forces. With just some little investment, the environmental advantage can be used to create employment and food.
Whereas other regions have to wait for rains, Nyanza has the potential of producing food for 12 calendar months in the year because we have eight major rivers. With the government investing in the Nzoia 2 and Kuja 2 irrigation projects, more areas can be used as food baskets.
These simple steps can turn the region from a base of recruiting agents of violence to the food basket in the region
Fred Omullo is a Kisumu-based journalist