Kenya is becoming a land of a thousand millionaires and 10 million beggars, the politician Tom Mboya once said. But even he couldn’t have foreseen the desperation so many of his countrymen and women now face, writes Peter Njoroge, a 24-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent from the town of Kiambu, near Nairobi.
Our people are suffering no doubt about that. We have been suffering for a while now, and it is hard to assign blame for the misery which has become our constant companion.
It is hard to say who is suffering more, since individuals have different needs and our lifestyles differ greatly depending on income, location and circumstance.
Every where you go the pain is almost palpable, and the sad eyes filled with melancholy and hurt stay with you long after you’ve passed. The politician Tom Mboya once said that “Kenya is soon becoming a land of one thousand millionaires and 10 million beggars.”
But even he couldn’t have foreseen the desperation Kenyans have been plunged into by a minority elite which is bent on self enrichment at the expense of tens of millions of needy Kenyans. The rains are here and the plight seems to have become just a political issue to be tossed here and there like a tennis ball, while the real victims languish in the cold, dump and inhumane habitats which is the tiny tents they call home.
But the larger problem lies with what some people have come to refer to as the black gold. Black has always been synonymous with suffering from time immemorial when colonialists embraced hypocrisy and swept under the carpet the maxims of human equality and pursued the trade of slavery with gusto and zeal.
Black which was the talk of the 60’s during the civil rights movement in the States as the black populace struggled to get recognition and force the government to bring and end to racial segregation. Black which is symbolic for third world poverty where the mention of Africa creates imagery of backward people, mud huts and uncivilized living in the jungles and savannas of untamed Africa.
But now, black for the oil which powers the global economy and plunges most of the world populace into suffering and poverty never witnessed before. With the immense rise in cost of its acquisition, it has become symbolic and its value equated with the preciousness of gold.
So what has this black gold has to do with the gloom and suffering which is now characteristic of our society, and hope seems to be waning every day as the situation becomes dire and desperate. Every where in this global village, the topic that have captured every one’s attention is the increase in oil prices.
To call it an increase would be an injustice to humanity for the right word is either escalation or spiraling out of control. Even the world super power is filling the pinch and many believe that this issue is likely to play a major part in determining presidential poll in 2012.
But the focus of this article is Kenya and the countries around us. Why? Because oil prices affect every arena of our lives from the food we eat to the practices of our government and its agencies. A good example is the neighboring Uganda where protests by citizens over increasing living standards have led to inhumane crack down leading to the hospitalization of the opposition leader.
The situation hasn’t become that bad in Kenya but all indicators shows that unless something drastic is done soon, the people will have no choice but to demand for government intervention or for a change in regime if it can’t deliver.
Last week was one of the worst times witnessed in Kenya’s recent history. Our economy nearly came to a standstill as the fuel shortage changed the priority of our people and focus shifted from building the nation to seeking fuel to commute from home to work.
Most people were stranded as public transport called it a day as they couldn’t locate fuel to transport the daily commuters. There were unending traffic jams as vehicles lined for miles to acquire the precious commodity. It became almost comical to see well dressed people pushing their vehicles when they ran out of fuel and dignity became a luxury in the fight for the limited commodity.
The losers were me and you having to wait for hours to secure a place in the few available buses. In line with past traditions, the conductors hiked the fare from the ordinary 70 ksh to Ksh 250. Needless to say most people, taking cognizance that over 60% live below one dollar per day, had to walk home over distances longer than 20 KMs.
Has the situation been resolved? Hardly. There is speculation in the media that fuel prices are bound to go up by next week with increases of more than Ksh 6. Moreover, the unwillingness of importers to bring in emergency oil consignments has fueled fears that another shortage looms in the near horizon.
Our fear knows no bound, our desperation growing with every day that dawn. Inflation has whittled down our purchasing powers and it is likely to increase every month which brings with it increase in oil prices. It is necessary to point out that every sector of our economy depends on fuel, especially power which is largely thermal generated.
Where do we go to escape these hardships, who do we cry to help ease our suffering? Our government seems unwilling or unable to do anything. In the meanwhile we starve as a small group of oil companies realize super profits.
The government needs to do something, and quick, or the people will take matters into their own hands.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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