Women and children scoop out water from dry riverbeds. Photo:TurkanaGuardian
Turkana County shares three key resources with the United Arab Emirates; sun, sand and sea.
A more accurate description of the inland sea in Turkana County is the great pristine emerald jewel with untapped potential. Nestled in the northern reaches of the western arm of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Turkana is the world’s largest permanent desert lake and the world’s largest alkaline lake spanning a catchment area of 130,860 kilometres with a maximum length of 290 kilometres and a maximum width of 32 kilometres.
The lake is a shared resource between Kenya and Ethiopia and is drained by three major rivers; the Omo, Turkwell and Kerio. Uniquely the lake has no outflow, thus only losing its water through evaporation.
Lake Turkana National parks are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites and many anthropologists have long regarded the Lake area as the cradle of humankind due to the abundance of hominid fossils.
In fact, Turkana is far wealthier and has more potential than the UAE did during its economic take-off many years ago. This is despite the neglect and marginalisation it has suffered since colonialism with subsequent governments relegating this vast county and its people to the realm of the forgotten.
Today, Turkana stands at the threshold of unimaginable riches with the discovery of oil and massive volumes of underground water, the county adds to its menu of natural wealth; long daylight hours filled with sunshine and powerful winds, a magical lake, wildlife and minerals. The findings could not have come at a better time, just when Kenya embraced devolution.
It is therefore within the power of Turkana people and their leaders to dramatically turn around their lives by growing wealth and exploiting the resources they never knew they had. The first lie they must expunge from their collective mind is that they are poor.
The government of Governor Josphat Nanok should work closely with bi-lateral partners institutions such as the World Bank and the Trade Mark Eastern Africa through the Private Public Partnership Strategies (PPPS) to construct roads; airports; health facilities; and educational institutions. These developments would further open up the county to local and regional markets and energize the local economy.
But the citizens of Turkana need to have a genuine hunger for change. They must embrace management Guru Robin Sharma’s advice that; “You cannot have what you want if you are content to remain what you are.”
Turkana leaders must also be patriotic enough to let go of any benefits they derive from insecurity and banditry that camouflages itself as cattle rustling and settling ethnic scores. Earnings from blood money can be immediately replaced by genuine proceeds from legitimate trade with other counties and the neighbouring states of Uganda, Ethiopia and Southern Sudan.
To realise this dream, however, Nanok’s vision must be driven by a passion and determination for change. Otherwise, those who would prefer Turkana to remain in the dark ages will forever jeer him with the African saying that a butterfly should not regard itself as a bird just because it can fly.