Some 52 innocent women and children being hacked to death or burned in their homes is not something that any of us had imagined could still happen within our borders. But it has happened. And the odd thing is that the fundamental problem which lies behind this conflict in Tana River county where these atrocities occurred, is not atavistic tribal animosities as many have alleged.
On the contrary, the root cause of this tragedy is a simple matter of water supply policy; more specifically, a failure to come up with the appropriate water policy for that region. There is actually enough water for all the communities who live in Tana River: the Pokomo, the Orma, the Galjeel and the various smaller communities.
But as there is no effective plan for water capture and water harvesting, the only long term source of water is the Tana River itself. And the certainty of conflict between the pastoralists (mostly Orma) and the farming communities (mostly Pokomo) arises from the fact that when a large herd of cattle heads for this river, it is inevitable that it will trample on crops which represent the fruit of many months of toil, to the farmers.
A system of well-scattered boreholes and large water reservoirs for that region – maybe even a large artificial lake – would take very little from the annual budget of the Ministry of Water, and yet would resolve these water conflicts once and for all. It is tragedies such as this one, which illustrate what the people of the Northern Coast, as well as those of the North Eastern Province, mean when they say these regions are marginalised.
Because of their relatively sparse populations, their priorities can be ignored by the powers that be in Nairobi. But the residents of these far-flung semi-arid zones, are also Kenyans. And it manifestly unfair that whereas residents of more ‘developed’ areas agitate for better roads, and easier access to electricity, to the residents of Tana River – and with such a vast supply of water readily at hand – water is a matter of life and death.
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Kenya: A Simple Matter of Water Supply Policy
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