By Amon Kemei.
Non-Africans who have not secured a privilege of visiting Africa will always have a lot of misconceptions about it. They have misguided beliefs that Africa is the home of all manner of both man-made and natural disasters and calamities. Among the beliefs are that a bunch of nasty and deadly diseases originate from Africa, political unrest reigns, there is unprecedented levels of poverty and corruption among other grave things. Some parts of Kenya have suffered and continue to suffer the same stereotyping the continent has been subjected to. For a Kenyan who has never set foot in counties such as Lamu, Tana River, Marsabit and Isiolo will always think that these counties are backward when it comes to infrastructural and human development, little do they know that these counties are better in terms of human development than even other counties.
The counties are infamous for terrorism, religious intolerance, insecurity, drug addiction, poverty, ethnic and clan animosities, cattle rustling and banditry, illiteracy, early marriages and other inhumane cultural practices.”
When you meet a typical Kenyan and you ask them what they think about these four counties their response will be that the counties are infamous for terrorism, religious intolerance, insecurity, drug addiction, poverty, ethnic and clan animosities, cattle rustling and banditry, illiteracy, early marriages and other inhumane cultural practices. While on the flip side one who has been to these counties will be nice and charitable when responding to the same question.
The County Dialogue Conferences (CDC) gave me an opportunity to visit these four counties that had been marginalized by previous governments but devolution has proven to be the cure. I can attest that devolution is registering some little success though inhabitants still complain that they don’t feel any impact of the devolved government. Their high expectations could be seen from the way they were raising their issues at the conferences. They spoke passionately about various issues which need to be addressed if their living conditions and well-being are to be improved.
I confidently confirm that I went to these counties with certain stereotypes but I came back when all these stereotypes had been erased. We have been consuming a lot of negative stories from various sources concerning these counties and my visit changed my perceptions. These counties have hidden treasures, for instance, Lake Paradise is a “remote paradise for nature lovers” as described by Kenya Wild Service (KWS). The climate and fertile soil of Lamu makes it perfect for agricultural activities. I recall challenging the hospitable, polite and not-in-hurry coastal inhabitants that Lamu can be a fruit basket for Kenya. In Hola Town, Tana River I managed to come across a police station which used to be a detention camp to house detainees who were perceived to be hard-core criminals by colonial government and later post-colonial government. The unexplored treasures.
Calm and quiet currently experienced does not mean there is peace, what they have is negative peace and the path to positive peace is through addressing all underlying issues.”
As much as there are good things that can be said of the counties I must not pretend to ignore and minimize the existence of certain problems such as religious and ethnic intolerance, drug abuse and substance taking and violence extremism. I recall one participant arguing eloquently that Isiolo has the highest number of ‘zombies’ in the entire country due to high prevalence of drug abuse and substance taking. Moreover, calm and quiet currently experienced does not mean there is peace, what they have is negative peace and the path to positive peace is through addressing all underlying issues.
It is my prayer and hope that all the issues that were raised during the CDCs will be addressed and be brought to fruition. I am a disciple of a school of thought which believes that faith-based institutions can help transform the country and not conform with the shortcomings experienced. I strongly believe that religious leaders occupy a very special place in society and they are ideal agents to deliver citizens from Egypt to Canaan.