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Inside Turkana politics: where poverty oils elite’s greed

In Memory of Arch. Lemukol Ng'asike

Kenya's only oil county is under siege. Don’t go far. Elite Ping-Pong is the culprit-in-chief. The interests of the masses matter no more. (Of course that has never existed). This cradle of mankind is currently confronting enemies from two fronts. One, from the hellish poverty that is synonymous with the region and two, from stone-age-leaning political networks that find solace in poverty promotion, and not poverty reduction.

The existence of a symbiotic relationship between the two is known to all. We know, and everyone must know that Turkana elites (political and apolitical alike) have – for the last fifty years – used poverty as the springboard of their personal ambitions. It is no surprise that these anti-poverty declarations have hardly been implemented. Still, out of this marriage comes a deadly politico-elitist enterprise whose philosophy is, bluntly speaking, "to profit as long as the poor live".

Tragic story.

Objectification of the people and escapism as regards to war on poverty will eternally epitomize the aforementioned enterprise. There is just too much talk and finger-pointing than real work going on in this land of oil and water. An unprecedented generation of deal makers is alive. “Eating” is their motto. Self-aggrandizement, they believe, is what stands for leadership credentials. Result? People-centered initiatives have lost momentum. Poverty has conquered the people.

That a group of leaders claiming to be the authentic voice of the people can turn around and defile the collective will of the populace demonstrates why underdevelopment is here to stay. I am sorry. This is the reality and we must confront it head-on if we really want to turn things around. What we see in Turkana is a case of unchallenged hypocrisy. Surely, it adds no value for people purporting to be leaders to dance with hungry, desperate villagers in a show of solidarity while they negate all interventions geared towards uplifting these same people.

It is paramount to reiterate it here; I firmly believe that it is what happens before and after any 'solidarity dance' that matters to these villagers. Not smiles that mask the real intentions of the mis/leaders. Beneath that layer of people’s collective pain rests hunger for constructive engagement. This is what wananchi want.

Nothing exemplifies this perfectly than what is spewed by an anti-Turkana county government brigade comprised of political incumbents who have outlived their usefulness, and have zero footprints to show for their long years in Kenya's legislative corridors. Of course their record of plunder and destruction is unrivaled. This group has assumed the job of branding Kenyans living in Turkana as "pure" and "not pure". The whole import of this charade is to advance a protectionist rhetoric that projects some individuals as "ineligible" to vie for any political seat in the county.

No doubt, lectures on Kenya's constitutional guarantees ought to be advanced to these folks.

But before that is effected, some questions are inescapable: Is this how desperation for political relevance can transform supposedly clever, mature people into noisemakers boiling in rage veiled as defense of public good? Or should we - the people - rejoice for witnessing a tectonic shift in how we judge and grade our leaders?

The truth of the matter is: Turkana's downfall is 90 per cent linked to a greedy home-grown squad whose tentacles control not only the many NGOs crisscrossing the region but also government offices. This crazy wealth-accumulation frenzy is inspired by the need to "buy" voters to secure elective positions. Call it a case of stealing from the people and using the ill-gotten monies to buy them.

But here comes a curious development. I have learnt that following 2013 Kenya's shift to devolution and its outpouring of development billions, most of these hitherto powerful individuals "discovered" that all their traditional pots have dried up. There is nothing with which to buy public sympathy. And with this political nothingness comes a new mantra. That of disrupting, badmouthing, and making it humanely impossible for the county government of Turkana to work.

At the core of this undertaking is one thing. That any success rate on the side of the county government means poverty reduction on the side of the population, which in turn translates to political death for those who, for many eons, banked on hollow distributionist calculations to hoodwink the people. Looks like these wonks have realized that the era of relief food politics is coming to an end.

I confer no positive scores to these political busy bodies. Wananchi’s empowerment is unstoppable. Mental and material slavery must be demolished and in its place (be) erected a monument of hope - one that cherishes the centrality of the people, their aspirations and the need to materialize them.

This is why Turkana County must collectively remove its deadly tumor: its mis/leaders’ love for poverty, and their hate for anti-poverty interventions. Nothing else.


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