How NGOs and business profited from Kenya’s post-poll violence
Posted Saturday, August 11 2012 at 23:30
- Hundreds of civil society groups sprung up to gain from the windfall of the conflict which claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced more than 600,000 others
Outside his cramped, dusty office in Nairobi’s Industrial Area, Mr Ali Hemed braved the July morning chill to watch half a dozen of his trucks loaded with cereals destined for the internally displaced persons in various parts of the country.
Mr Hemed won a lucrative government tender in 2009 to supply relief food to thousands of people displaced by the 2007-2008 post-election violence in the North Rift and parts of Central Rift.
Though he said he was already a successful businessman before he got the tender, he conceded that things had improved a great deal since then.
“I really cannot complain. My business has taken a leap since then,” he said.
Conflicts and natural disasters usually exact a devastating toll on the populations and infrastructure in their wake. But the reconstruction that follow present enormous opportunities for businessmen.
Kenya is no different. After the post-election violence the government and the international community undertook massive recovery which have seen the fortunes of businessmen like Mr Hemed improve greatly.
“It is a matter of positioning yourself well,” he told the Sunday Nation. “There was so much to be done during that period. If you knew somebody in government then you knew you were into big money.”
Mr Hemed has another office in Eastleigh in Nairobi where some of his stores are. His 16 trucks are not enough for the job and he has had to bring in friends and other businessmen.
A lifeline to many businesses
“They get the supplies from the Cereals (National Cereals and Produce Board) depot under my name then I give them their cut when I am paid,” he said. He said that he has given a lifeline to many struggling businesses.
But this boom is by no means down to individual business acumen. The recovery spawned a whole new multi-billion shilling industry involving businessmen, politicians and non-governmental organisations.
In the aftermath of the violence, billions of shillings were poured into providing food, constructing houses, erecting tents and supplying water and medicine among other amenities to the victims.
From the ashes and ruins of the violence, which claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced more than 600,000 others, hundreds of NGOs and civil society groups sprung up, ready to profit from the windfall of the conflict.
Most of these organisations were started by savvy individuals who duly used them to solicit funds from foreign governments and international organisations, although the outcome of the work by some of them remains open to question.
The industry spawned by the violence is nearly worth Sh30 billion; the same amount the government said it would require to undertake full reconstruction to the pre-violence levels.
The government alone says it has nearly provided half of this colossal amount over the past five years. Sh1.8 billion for the IDP resettlement has been factored in this year’s budget, Finance minister Njeru Githae said.
“This will bring the total amount spent on IDP resettlement to Sh15 billion since 2008. We now expect that the affected persons, having now secured livelihood, will join other Kenyans to contribute to nation building,” he said in his budget speech.
Large-scale land owners have also benefited from the recovery. A number of them have sold their land to the government to resettle the IDPs. To date, the government has procured nearly 10,000 acres of land to resettle the displaced.