Monday, January 28, 2008

The fate of Somalis in Kenya

When two bulls fight, the grass suffers, and when your neighbor's house is on fire, there may be no escape for you as you may also be engulfed in an unnoticeable creeping inferno.

Kenya is on fire and so is Somalia that preceded it in crisis. In Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya and the epicenter of trouble, the bustling Eastleigh suburb, home to thousands of Kenya-Somalis and thousands of refugees from Somalia, life is not normal and so has business become stagnated. Marauding hooligans have made life for the inhabitants of Eastleigh unbearable with nightly raids on Somali businesses becoming the norm.

Thousands of Somalis have so far abandoned their businesses heading for the semi-arid North Eastern Province for safety. The province lags behind the rest of the country in education, infrastructure, health, and in economy which may be a hard pill to swallow for the newly arrived Internally Displaced People (IDPs), a harrowing experience until such a time when life comes back to normal.

As for the inhabitants of NEP, insufficiency in consumer products and an abrupt upsurge in provincial population, has had adverse effects on their general economy. Garissa District, which is said to contain the largest concentration of livestock in East and Central Africa, is for now unable to find markets for the large herds of goats, camels, sheep, and cattle that had been a source of income for many families and a sustainer of the economy. Prices of food products have skyrocketted and the Somali border remains closed.

Food destined for refugees housed in the district have been diverted to regions that have seen the worst violence. Successive Kenya Governments have long marginalized the people of NEP for 44 years because of their ancestral heritage with the people of Somalia and because of the simmering disputes in the 50s and 60s over the rightful ownership of the former Northern Frontier Dstrict (NFD).

Fo now, the Kenya Government seems to keep aside the problems of NEP until the rest of Kenya is secured and the election dispute is solved once and for all. For now, the general Somali population in Kenya, whether Kenyan born or foreign born, with their eyes wide open, seem to have been left with no other option but to wait and see the miraculously expected light at the end of the tunnel.

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