Kenya’s triangle of death is symbolically in a valley. Kerio Valley’s confluence of Turkana, Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet exudes an eerie biblical imagery due to its anarchic nature. Places as Suguta Valley, Kapedo or Baragoi, for instance, have become avatars of death.
Recently, in what has become a predictable pattern, militias have been clashing, raiding and killing. Several people have died and thousands of others have been displaced. The militia even had the temerity to strike when Deputy President William Ruto visited for pacification. This kind of audacity is petrifying.
Yet this barbarism is playing out in one of the most massively endowed regions. Geologists confirm that Kerio Valley is teeming with highly valued treasures such as oil, limestone, gypsum, solar energy and geothermal energy not to mention cattle and world heritage prehistoric sites. This is a scenic world. Think of the sand dunes of Suguta Valley, the gorgeous Lake Logipi with enchanting flamingos and captivating volcanic cones in Lake Turkana. This wealth is a bit embarrassing, as amid all the treasure the best folks here can engage in is anarchy. This was excused as cultural, but it has now become commercial. And this is why it is laughable that the bandits are causing suffering and tension just for hundreds of cattle. It is now time to strategically seek to tap on the resource, develop it and create gainful employment for youth, who are the key agents of conflicts. It is this wealth that should be used to pacify the peoples.
It is time for a public private partnership to accelerate the region’s development. We need to establish a marshal plan for the region and others that share similar problems.
Boots and barrels can knock sense into some rebellious outfits. But that is not enough. The social structures here are delicate and complex and mere force will be perceived as victimisation. We need a blend of soft and hard power. We strongly need a paradigm shift on how we perceive these regions, and how we engage them economically.
Kerio may seem a distant, even mythical world to most Kenyans and even the policy makers. Yet if left unattended, the malaise will fester. It might turn into our Niger Delta. That is not what we want as a country. Pray if you can, but think strategically for Kerio. Constructing a new social and economic dispensation leveraging on the natural resources will reorient folks towards a new lifestyle – of civility. It is possible that youth will find some meaningful engagement in commerce and extractives, making a decent profit than dwelling on conflict.
We can turn cattle, the object of conflict into one of peace and prosperity. I have always wondered about the wisdom of transporting cattle to Nairobi’s Dagoretti abattoirs when they can easily be set up here. This will cut the cost of brokers and transportation and create jobs. Besides, is it not logical to start leather industries next to abattoirs, even at cottage level?
We should be thinking of commercialising land and opening it up to investment. Large investors should be given preference to create employment. With cheap geothermal energy, it is possible to create industrial complexes. Such special economic zones will have a ripple effect on the socio-economic and cultural orientations and auxiliary industries like tourism will latch along. Youth should find it valuable to turn their knowledge of the jungle into tour guiding. Indeed, the seductive beauty of Kerio Valley is dominated by breath-taking scenery of volcanic complexes punctuated by calderas, volcanic cones, faults, cliffs, pristine lakes and gorges. The adventurous soul will always find a Shangri-La of sorts. It should not waste away in anarchy.
Suguta, christened “valley of death,” is actually a valley of life. It’s a hanging ripe fruit. It is not only fertile but also a tourist magnet. If only a sound water supply system could be installed, an agricultural revolution would rise from the valley, exporting fruits and vegetables.
What we need is a determined effort both at the national and county levels to turn around Kenya’s Wild Wild West. Commercialisation of this world, construction of infrastructure and a permanent presence of security apparatus will help to pacify the valley.
Eric Wamanji is a public relations expert.