The open blue skies and sunsets in Turkana County are breath taking. Whether you want a nice quiet morning jog or an evening scenic walk, Turkana will offer you one of the best sceneries that you cannot experience anywhere else. The moon appears closer and clearer in this county and the stars, you will have a great time trying to remember the many constellations you learnt in school. Sadly, it’s not all glamour.
The road from Kapenguria to Lodwar must be the worst road in the country. The road is so bad and the insecurity is so high that you need police escort to move between Kainuk and Lokichar towns. Last time we used this road, small boys with big guns took off when they saw our police escort. It’s no wonder that residents of this area talk about Kenya as if it is a neighboring country. To them, we are in Down country, Down Kenya.
I love traveling. I actually prefer road travel because I get to see my country. But when it takes over 12 hours of really bad road and being on the edge that anything could happen since young boys don’t graze with sticks but with guns; AK47s and G3s, the joy of travel dies.
There are no 300ml sodas in Lodwar. The only available milk is long life. Fresh produces are not as readily available as in most parts of the country. Phone network is poor for most parts of the region. Transport to and from Lodwar is twice a day by road; morning and evening. Even though there are daily flights to Turkana, will the mwananchi afford to pay almost KES30, 000 for a return flight?
And then “they” discovered oil and gas deposits in Turkana County. Today, the residents of the county talk about the oil sites using their code names; Ngamia, Twiga and Ekale 1 as if they are local kiosks. That’s not enough. Recently, huge water reservoirs that could meet the entire country’s needs for the next 70 years were also discovered in the same county. One of the driest counties in the country could now provide water for the rest of the country for close to 100 years!
This is good news right? Well, only for us who think we are all in the same country. The communities up north are very apprehensive about “visitors”. Some people hurled insults at us saying that the press had been painting them in bad light. This was because a local media house recently did a feature story on how prostitution had increased in the area since the discovery of oil. I guess their concern was after years of having nothing good to say about the area, they thought oil and water would change all that. Clearly not.
Whatever happened to Brand Kenya? Is it right for Kenyans living within Kenya’s boundaries to refer to themselves as outsiders? Since this has been ongoing for a long time, why isn’t the government doing anything to change this perception? The legislatures from these regions are always in Nairobi, why are there no motions in Parliament to address their grievances?
Haven’t we learnt anything from the sad events in Lamu? Turkana County cannot declare itself a landlocked self-governing county. That is a fact. As much as they are not willing to open up their region to foreigners, the power of demand and supply will soon overpower them. What happens then? What will happen when Kenyans see the potential “abroad” (in Turkana) and move there to invest? How long will it be before the residents feel “invaded” by Down Kenya residents? What will happen next? Your guess is as good as mine.
For the longest time, you denied them good hospitals, good schools and good roads. You ignored their insecurity concerns. You refused to send relief when they called out. You allowed NGOs to take advantage of them causing them to live on handouts. Now they have something you need. Do you think they will hand it over to you that easily?
If I was the government, my strategy would be simple. What has been their need all these years, still is. Act now. Build schools and hospitals. Give the Chinese or whoever the contract to build the roads (as long as it’s not Kirinyaga Construction). Increase security presence in the area. Make the residents feel like you care. In the process, investors too will be impressed and the rest will be history. Ignore this process, and history will judge us harshly.
Surely we learnt something from the “Lamu Experience”. Didn’t we?