There are many hungry people in the U.S.. Some die of starvation, usually in association with a mental disorder or drug addiction, but most get help when necessary—go to soup kitchens, community shelters, or churches. Others post up on busy streets like carbon monoxide-covered stone statues donning real woolen fabric draped over shoulders to keep warm, while striving to keep their hands out. Poor David. I imagine he was cold.
There are also many hungry people in Kenya. The government currently estimates nearly 10 million people have fallen onto the ‘starving’ list. And unlike their adored Western neighbors, (thanks to Barack Obama, I travel quite safely here in the East African country) the starving consist of entire communities, not just those who were socially unfortunate or disabled, or buried in debt from their medical bills. The question seems trite when asked while you rest your feet on the leather ottoman, saluting the sun’s ambitious journey into the tree-lined horizon as you reflect back on your accomplishments of today’s work and how you may want to channel your investments within a different network, maybe stocks to real estate—the market is low—or maybe into a savings option for your children’s children to go to school. Regardless, how are so many people starving in Kenya? And large communities? Complete cities?
Painfully, after a shocking two months playing Kenyan in blistering heat and noisome streets enveloped in thick, white smoke from burning trash, Kenya’s national disaster of famine becomes all too clear and, ironically, in much juxtaposition to that which we Americans are told, or believe, or are told to believe back at home.
Yes, Kenya is in a drought (they seem to always be in a drought). Yes, Kenya is faced with the bitter reality which many developed nations have undergone or are currently experiencing—a transitioning period perplexed with the issues of readjustment, whereby the urban cities become the heart and pulse to the nation, changing the structure of the previous economic and social systems to reorganize no longer on the local community’s needs, but on the quest for foreign markets, convenience, opportunity, riches.
The carpenter no longer makes doors for homes, but makes them to earn money—regardless if they’re installed or sit for years at Pottery Barn. Industries giving birth to plastic products or hormone-laden meats gasp at the prospect of initiatives and groups forming to eradicate such useless, odious commodities. They cry to Congress for help when their efforts become clearly unsustainable or unproductive—as they have always been—except in cunning, human welfare-abusing money-making circles.
This urbanization brings havoc for the landlocked, concrete-ceilinged, average anyone who begins to see their work recreated—and much faster and reliant!—by machines or cheaper labor abroad, or when they see their communal—okay, we’re in Kenya—tribal farmlands sold from under their feet, through the government’s pipedream that the quick sale is worth more than a self-sustaining nation and an environmentally-friendly future. Suddenly Tom from Texas and Mr. Chau from China are skipping along fertile Kenyan soil, measuring their picture-perfect, frequently pesticide-sprayed GM wheat while Kala the Kenyan awaits his monthly delivery of maize flour from the Kenyan Red Cross, as he and his community sit atop their rocky, cropless land.
So, again, how are so many people starving in Kenya? And how are so many people eating well, very well, just ten kilometers from a Kenyan Red Cross food drop-off zone? And what about the foreign-occupied land giving birth to abundant crops for export to foreign countries?
Once again President Kibaki and his motley crew win the blue ribbon, as they have failed to integrate almost 40% of the nation—composed of arid lands and still pastoral tribal communities—into the national repetoire. These people are neglect in the popular talks surrounding parliament about “The Kenya We Want” and “Vision 2030.” While the government has it’s sights set high on ensuring cell phone network access across the nation, or spending a whopping $2billion Kenyan Schillings (roughly $US dollars) on a funeral service for the 130 idiots who swarmed an upside-down oil tanker that had toppled while speeding on a notoriously deadly road, they have erroneously used their nation’s limited time and money to put gold plating on what is actually an unraveling rope. Perhaps this is a common dilemma for a nation entering the industrialized, developing world: needing to impress foreign politics and markets to secure aid and investment options, therefore having to forego imperative investment and attention domestically, drowning the weaker half of the population in it’s dirty bath water.
There are 10 million people starving in Kenya because the most fertile and stable farmland is occupied by foreign hands. There are 10 million people starving in Kenya because the post-election violence of early 2008 demolished bountiful crops, turning maize stocks into smoke signals to attempt communication with the deaf government. There are 10 million people starving in Kenya because the government has illegally sold the nation’s maize reserves under secrecy, an issue that is still in court and is quickly proving to turn into yet another ‘unknown’ and ‘unsolvable’ issue of government corruption and scandal. There are 10 million people starving in Kenya because the ‘united’ nation is actually a deeply divided, politically-bordered region of tribal factions where the government and national leaders are simply poster children for the tribe holding office (presently Kikuyu)—either legally or illegally.
There are no working national efforts to alleviate ‘Kenyans.’ There are, no doubt, struggles to aid the ‘Kenya’ that is in Nairobi, or the Kikuyu or their affiliated tribes, otherwise, the red carpet rolls out for aid organizations to cover such simple, necessary duties. (Food relief, healthcare, HIV/AIDS treatment, water and sanitation programs, tribal mediation.)
Remind me again, Mr. President. What does the government do?