Economic Gains Taken Only by the Wealthy
Kenya Still at the Brink of Disaster
As long as the economic benefits of natural resources benefit only a few, instead of being shared equally among all, the economy in a country will always be unfair to most, and in danger of collapse.
Here are portions of a recent report from the Washington Post, distributed by UNWire.
Return of Drought and Threat of Starvation Renew Calls for Economic Justice
by Emily WaxOn New Year's Day, groups of angry Masai herders attempted to drive their emaciated cattle onto the manicured lawns of the presidential residence so their animals could graze on the thick carpets of green grass in the morning sun.
With a drought turning their fields and pastures into dusty gray wastelands, and with millions of people in the region facing a food shortage, the herders wanted to make a point, organizers of the action said.
"Africa is not so poor that it doesn't have enough food or grazing land to feed itself. There's plenty of food here," said Ben Ole Koissaba, a leader of the Masai, one of the largest and most powerful tribes in Kenya. "Many countries around the world face drought, but their people don't starve. We think it's ludicrous for the government to treat its citizens this way. Why does this keep happening?"
Many are asking that question as yet another drought threatens lives and destroys crops and livestock here. About 11 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia are "on the brink of starvation," the United Nations said this week. In northeastern Kenya, at least 40 people, most of them children, have died from malnutrition and related illnesses since December, according to the Kenya Red Cross.
Enough food is grown in Kenya to feed all of its population of 33 million, but many citizens, especially the country's poor subsistence farmers, cannot afford it. Those who do the work to produce the food are not those who own the food.
"The month of December 2005 will be remembered for a long time to come by Kenyans as a time when people were starving to death while others were feasting," said Gullet Abbas, secretary general of the Kenya Red Cross Society.
"The current drought is more severe at most locations than the droughts of 1984, 1999 and 2000," Joseph Mukabana, director of the Kenya Meteorological Department, said in a full-page paid commentary in the Daily Nation, Kenya's largest newspaper. "Food relief efforts may need to go beyond December 2006 in some parts of the country."
The Kenya Red Cross Society and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, a monitoring group, have criticized the government for failing to do more to prepare for the drought, saying that officials knew more than a year ago that such conditions would develop.
Some experts predict that the cycles of drought and food shortages will continue on the world's poorest continent until governments here develop more permanent, sustainable solutions.
Nancy Mutunga, the country director for the Famine Early Warning group, said "Shouldn't we be developing more long-term solutions so this doesn't keep happening every few years?"
"Making food available for the farmers, though welcome, is short-term and short-lived," said Tom Kagwe, who writes about famines and development in Africa for the Daily Nation. "It cannot provide the long-term solutions to the country's food shortage."
Ole Koissaba, the Masai leader, said he was furious that the president turned the herders away from his residence. Even former president Daniel arap Moi, an authoritarian leader who ruled for 24 years, allowed the Masai to graze their cattle near the state house during a drought of 2002, Ole Koissaba pointed out.
"The new leadership cares more about politics than pastoralists, and now it can't do the correct things to save the lives, long term, of its own citizens," he said, adding there should be more international pressure on African governments to develop sound agricultural policies. "No African wants things to stay in this cycle of dysfunction."
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