Philip Ochieng comments on the famine that grips Kenya--this year.
What can the President mean when he declares anything a "national disaster"? Why did he need to announce that a famine was swallowing Kenyans? With all the headline news, who did not already know? How do you rescue a nation from the jaws of death merely by giving that tragedy an official recognition? Did we elect you – and are paying you through the nose – simply to make sanctimonious statements about "generosity"? [SNIP]Two posts ago the abundance which is available to all Americans—and to those not American, but who live in this country—was demonstrated. Contrasting that to what is going on in the country of my father’s birth, I didn’t feel so much guilty as blessed by the “accident” of birthplace and citizenship. I could very well have been raised—if not born—in Kenya.
Can a nation survive on the "charitability" of the "private sector" and the "donor community"? Why have we allowed this embarrassing beggarliness to become an annual ritual?
For there is no such thing as a naturally occurring "vagary" that we cannot tackle effectively with the fund of techniques to which all societies and all generations have contributed.
There is only the flaming greed which drives the very same "donor community" to destroy humanity's natural and mental habitat so completely that certain societies cannot think and work sustainably for themselves – and must beg.
But whose problem is the Kenyan famine and can it be solved? Philip Ochieng rails against the ‘donor community’ as an entity which ‘destroy[s] humanity's natural and mental habitat:’ an international interference in African countries which destroys incentive to do for self.
We are always being forced to do things – whether "democracy" or "development" – in accordance with a set of Western corporate self-interests marketed as "international standards" or "paradigms".‘Forced to do things?’ Since Kenya's independence, how true is that? Or has the living by-product of dead colonialism produced a mindset within many Africans; an idea that the Europeans (and the Americans) owe Africans there lives so completely, that the former must shoulder every burden that the Africans bear, including putting food in their mouths? Did colonialism co-opt ingenuity?
Often I find my father’s tirades against the West confusing. He’s an ardent socialist who sees free market economies as detrimental; however, he occasionally will implicitly acknowledge that it is those very type of economies that will successfully feed and water (cleanly) the peoples of his continent.
Back on track, he continues to slam the lack of foresight of the Kenyan government, which has had only three presidents since its independence:
[E]very year, our people perish as much from lack of water as from an oversupply of it.And then my father asks the question which had formed in my mind upon reading the first paragraph.
Drought is followed in April by veritable Noachian floods in which scores perish, especially in Kano, Budalang'i and Yatta. Our only choice is whether to die by drowning or from a parched throat.
Yet, year after year, after this fatalism is crowned with an impassioned appeal for "international" alms, the earth is allowed to continue with its usual "diurnal course" around the seething sun.
No thought at all is ever given to finding a perennial solution. Nobody seems interested in destroying, once and for all, the vicious circle in which this "vagary" of international fraud entraps us.
Yet the answer is as glaring. We must urgently invest in technologies with which to tame the April waters so that they do not touch human life and livelihood and to channel them into reservoirs with which to take care of future droughts.
Why won't we channel Kano waters to North-Eastern – as modern Israel has done for its wildernesses – and turn that semi-arid region into lush agricultural land?
Why not, indeed. Could it be because the Israelis well know the detriment of being dependent upon another people?
Young Kenyans—such as Akinyi June Arunga, who sometimes blogs at Martin Kimani’s fantastic African Bullets & Honey—ask themselves and their elders the same types of questions.
I watched my younger siblings being moved from one school to another as their former school got too expensive, we quit eating breakfast as bread, butter and milk became too expensive and we quit doing monthly household shopping since we could not afford it anymore.Back when I didn't understand much about free markets and I didn't know that my father was a socialist, I asked him why the poorest of people in his country had no access to even the most rudimentary plumbing as poor people do here in the US. Tellingly, he didn't answer. I suspect that he considered my question stupid; and, after reading this latest commentary, I suspect that he had no answer which would have made sense to my very American mind.
My friends and I theorized about the creation of wealth and the formula behind it… if there was any. I wondered (often aloud to my mother) if the creation of wealth was by chance, both for countries and for individuals since I also watched many of my well educated relatives move to wealthier countries to work unskilled jobs for better pay and higher standards of living. I watched my younger siblings being moved from one school to another as their former school got too expensive, we quit eating breakfast as bread, butter and milk became too expensive and we quit doing monthly household shopping since we could not afford it anymore. [SNIP]
All I heard from the “grown ups” was that the government needed to step up and do something about one or another of the different social and economic ills that affected our lives. And the truth is that I really felt sorry for whoever’s task it was to plan everything for 30million people, and alleviate all these problems. I wondered if I would be able to do handle it if it were up to me.
I marveled at the wisdom of the people who had to run all the different government ministries and marketing boards, planning everything and even determining prices of goods and services for the whole economy. It always baffled me why all surplus grain had to be collected and put in the huge silos I saw growing up in the agricultural town on Nakuru.
Wouldn’t it be faster to let the farmers get the food to the market themselves? But on enquiry I was told that some people would not get the food if the government did not procure and redistribute it at affordable prices, and yet in the North of the country, there was always famine. [SNIP]
I was introduced formally to freedom and free market by reading books on freedom. The insights it offered were crystal clear. Presenting to me questions I had never contemplated before, such as what the proper role of government is, and the idea that protection of life, liberty and property were the only functions that could be justified in the existence of governments.
I felt relieved and elated. Relieved because I expected creation of wealth to be very complex, and now I realized that in comparison to the task of central planning, deregulation and liberalization are simple. [SNIP]
It is hard to sit back passively with the knowledge that tried and proven solutions exist for the questions and fears that many of my peers still have in Kenya -- to sit back knowing that it is within each individual’s reach if only he was “deregulated”.
It is harder to watch the law break the people, demoralize and impoverish them when one clearly understands what it would take to improve their lot.
Will young Kenyans like June stay the course? More importantly, will Africans--Kenyan and otherwise--get tired of allowing the same useless "leaders" to guide their fate? I hope--and fear--that many a revolution may have to take place in relatively open countries like Kenya in order for real republican democracy--with respect for the individual citizen, private property and free markets--to take any real hold; in order for Africa to continuously and sustainably feed itself.
Here's hoping that those revolutions are mostly peaceful.