Somalis happiest in East Africa, Burundians most miserable in the world

Kenyans are not happy with the economy, graft, limited choices, but they are better off than Tanzanians, Rwandans and Burundians.

Friday March 18 2016

Kenyans attend a product launch in Nairobi. A new survey ranks Somalia as the happiest country in the East African region. It also says Kenyans would be happier were it not for corruption and low life expectancy in the country. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Kenyans attend a product launch in Nairobi. A new survey ranks Somalia as the happiest country in the East African region. It also says Kenyans would be happier were it not for corruption and low life expectancy in the country. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By AGENCIES
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NEW YORK, Thursday

Somalis are happier than Kenyans, in spite of having endured war for more than two decades, a new report shows.

Ranked at 76 globally in the 2015 World Happiness Report released by the United Nations on Thursday, Somalia is the happiest country in the region, followed by Kenya at 122.

However, the report also includes Somaliland territory, which is ranked at 97 out of the 157 countries.

The study becomes more interesting because, at 143, East African Community’s latest entrant South Sudan outperformed Tanzania (149), Rwanda (152) and Burundi (157).

However, the rankings tell half the story. Although Kenya has gained 4.3 points since the last report, Kenyans are generally unhappy about the country’s gross domestic product, perception of corruption, low freedom in making life choices, low social support, healthy life expectancy and lack of generosity.

The country’s biggest score on the chart may have come from what researchers called ‘residual’ happiness.

The report, which compiled these factors between 2013 and 2015, may have come at a time when Kenyans were living with corruption scandals, Al-Shabaab attacks, allegations of tribalism, poverty and fatal road accidents, all which are assessed to determine average happiness. 

IMAGINED HAPPINESS

Somalis, on the other hand, may be living with a daily bombardment by the Al-Shabaab, but those people have retained more happiness about their country.

The report does not assess Somalis’ happiness about GDP, which is fettered by war anyway.

And though they have little to say about their health and life expectancy, researchers found that their sense of generosity, social support and imagined happiness and residual liking makes them happier than any other country in the East African region.

Burundi is the least happy country in the world, followed by war-ravaged Syria and Togo.

Afghanistan and six other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa — Benin, Rwanda, Guinea, Liberia, Tanzania and Madagascar — are also among the least happy.

The report compared data from 2005 to 2015 showing that Greece, which suffered enormously from the global recession and now faces a crippling migrant crisis, had the highest drop in happiness. It seeks to quantify happiness as a means of making societies healthier and more efficient.

The UN published the first such study in 2012.

NORDIC COUNTRIES HAPPIEST

As with last year, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden round out the top 10, making small or medium-sized countries in Western Europe seven of the top 10 happiest countries.

Denmark, which was ranked first in the 2012 and 2013 reports but lost that honour to Switzerland in last year’s, reclaimed its title.

The United States, where sharp polarisation has been exposed in the 2016 presidential election campaign, out-ranked several Western European countries to be 13th, up two spots from last year. Germany was 16th, Britain 23rd and France 32nd in the happiness ranking.

China, the world’s most populous country, was ranked 83rd and India, the world’s largest democracy, came in at 118 while a string of Middle Eastern kingdoms — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain — out-ranked Italy, which came in at number 50, and Japan (53).

The authors said “six factors — GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, social freedom, generosity and absence of corruption — explain almost three-quarters of the variation across different countries”.

The report compared levels of happiness in 2005-2007, before the onset of the global recession, with 2013-2015, the most recent three-year period for which data from a Gallup World Poll is available.

Of the 126 countries for which comparable data was available, 55 had significant increases in happiness and 45 had significant decreases.

Among the top 20 gainers were Thailand and China, eight countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States and Eastern Europe, seven in Latin America, two in Sub-Saharan Africa and Macedonia in the Balkans.

The 20 largest losers of happiness included Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Yemen and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East; Japan and India in Asia; and Cyprus, Spain, Italy and Greece in Europe — all hard hit by the economic crisis.

Ukraine, where the east has been roiled by a pro-Russian insurgency since 2014, has also fallen into the group of 10 largest happiness declines.

Iceland and Ireland offer the best examples of maintaining happiness in the face of economic crisis due to high degrees of social support.

Late last week, UN independent experts said there was a lot of work to be done in terms of respect for human rights in Burundi.

“From March 1 to March 8, we have met various people and groups, including government officials, civil society representatives, religious leaders, eyewitnesses and victims,” said Pablo de Greiff, one of the three experts after they concluded the first phase of their mission in the country. “There is a great deal of work for the respect of human rights and we (experts) have a great deal of work.”

‘’During the first phase of our mission, government officials showed us their readiness to discuss with us, but at the same time, even if civil society organisations are intimidated, they are committed to working for the respect of human rights,” said Mr De Greiff.

Additional reporting by Aggrey Mutambo

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