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Selective Development: Myth or reality

Every person has the right to clean and safe water in adequate quantities, reads section 66 of the Harmonized Draft Constitution. The current Constitution says as much in the chapter on the Bills of Rights.   This is easier said than done in one of the many public relations exercises. It is nine years past the date of a promise of clean water for every Kenyan by the  year 2000.

Persistent droughts that kill livestock could be avoided with little effort from policy makers and planners. Preventable and curable water borne diseases like cholera have claimed lives in the recent past including helpless prisoners partly because the government pays little attention to the needs of the needy and the vulnerable.

The successive governments have abandoned rain harvesting, dam construction and water pans along seasonal rivers in the North and elsewhere that could help mitigate some of the man made calamities. Creation of a Ministry of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands without enough resources from which to operate is an insult that the regional residents can no longer bear.

Statistical data shows that development is politicized to the extent that economic potential of an area is not a factor in the estimates and allocation of resources – hence the quest for semi autonomy of the country’s regions in the new political dispensation.

One such area that bears the brunt of  persistent water shortage  is pastoral Northern Kenya and its immediate environs yet the entire region was allocated   a paltry  sum of Sh62 million  for water development in the   2009/10 estimates.

Wajir South constituency’s share in the allocation is Sh7.4 million while sinking  a  borehole requires  at least  Sh6 million.  Other regions with developed infrastructure get the lion’s share in the allocations. 

With the right policies in place, the region – like other arid areas in the world – can grow enough food and export surplus. The aridity in the north is not as severe as Egypt that grows enough food by irrigating the desert. The country exports surplus as relief to some Nile tributary countries whose water is the Egyptian lifeline. Nile aside, Kenya is blessed with many freshwater streams and rivers that flow into waste in the Indian Ocean.

The  foregoing  are a mockery  to the  dream of the  nation’s  founding fathers  who  declared poverty, ignorance  and disease  as number one national enemies. This government is no different from its predecessors.  It is in the habit of reneging on its contractual and constitutional obligations but bores citizens   with nicely worded papers on problem solutions. 

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Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper  (PRSP)  is  one  such  beautifully  worded documents  that  gathers  dust  in the  official  shelves as the  pangs  of poverty  bite while  the  same  promises that the problems  would be over  by the year  2030.   As for now the  government has  given up  and confessed  to  failures  that  stare us  in the  face  as  we prepare  to  celebrate the  independence Golden  Jubilee  in three years.

Resource allocation disparities account for unspeakable inequalities and imbalanced development in some parts of the country whose residents consider themselves condemned to perpetual destitution. Selective development is matters of grave concern that must be addressed and resolved in the interest of peaceful co- existence and harmony.

(Abdirahman Ali Hassan is a member of parliament for Wajir  South. Email:

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