"Which of you, if your children ask for a loaf of bread, will give them a stone? Or if they ask for fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!’’ Mathew 7:9-10
I am not a strong advocate for quoting religious texts in public discourse, but sometimes when there’s darkness everywhere, we resort to clutching at anything, whether as believers or non-believers, for the sake of providing a little light at the end of the long dark tunnel.
In those words in Mathew, a simple question is asked of parents. In the case of countries, the state automatically assumes the role of parents in this analogy, with the citizenry translating to its children. Therefore, when a starving-to-death citizen asks the state for bread, would the state offer a stone, or if they asked for fish, would the state offer a snake?
In the scriptures, the answer to these questions is an unequivocal no!
Unfortunately, in Kenya today, as absurd as it may sound, nothing is off the table. The citizenry may be served snakes and stones, because no one seems to care anymore. The life of individual citizens has been relegated and reduced to mean nothing, thanks to the unprecedented plunder of public resources which has reached monumental levels.
One is prompted to ask, when parents turn into beasts, what fate befalls the children?
When news broke that a section of Kenyans are facing life threatening drought, hunger and starvation – much as there had been predictions of tough times ahead especially in the arid and semi-arid areas – it came as a huge surprise to many since one of the main campaign pillars of the Jubilee government has been food security. In fact, food security features prominently within President Uhuru Kenyatta’s glamorous Big Four Agenda, and if one were to speculate what within the four pillars could translate into a quick win, then feeding Kenyans would be it.
Therefore billions of shillings were supposedly – I say supposedly because there is no empirical or other evidence indicating a corresponding bumper harvest – invested in irrigation projects, only for them to turn out to be the biggest and whitest white elephant projects. Then came the theft by well-connected wheeler-dealers of money meant to pay maize farmers especially in the Rift Valley, resulting in the near crippling of the National Cereals and Produce Board.
Going by all these indicators, there was no way the Jubilee government was serious about food security, thereby resulting in the current heartbreaking predicament faced by starving families in Turkana and elsewhere, where a meal a day has become the highest human aspiration.
Under these unbearable circumstances, one is reminded of the poignant if stinging words of Kenya’s eminent historian, Prof. Bethwell Allan Ogot, who succinctly remarked in one of his texts that, ‘‘Project Kenya is dead.’’
This is because there has never been a more befitting moment to confirm that Kenya is indeed a man eat man society, where instead of government working overtime to mitigate against the forewarned and imminent death by starvation of its citizens, the biggest preoccupation within the state has been grand corruption, the need for everyone to get their hands into the cookie jar.
56 years after Kenya gained flag independence from the British, the country is grappling with two self-contradictory realities, if one may call them that. On the one hand, billions of shillings are being stolen every day, suggesting that the country seems to have a bottomless reservoir of never ending resources, while on the other hand, Kenyans are starving to death.
The most bizarre bit of it all is that our people are dying not because of anything complicated, unpreventable or unpredictable, but because those mandated to prevent such disasters have absconded, in a lethal combination of sheer negligence, utter incompetence and indifference.
Our people are dying not because it is their time to die, but because we have decided that they should die, since it appears they are an inconvenience to us for as long as they remain alive.
We are killing them through sins of omission and commission, either by refusing to plan ahead and implement already tried and tested solutions to their predicament, or by stealing in the most blatant ways the resources meant to facilitate timely interventions against drought.
They say fish starts rotting from the head. Therefore as much as blame may be apportioned elsewhere, it first rests at the feet of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Cabinet, alongside county governments which aside from local interventions, should have raised timely alarm.
The death of a single Kenyan, made even worse if it happens for lack of food and water, is already one death too many. As Commander-in-Chief, protecting Kenyan lives should be the President’s highest priority. Someone should therefore whisper to him that starvation alone is enough to shred his legacy into tatters, because if Kenyans cannot eat, then what else matters?