Image via WikipediaIn the Western world, scholars, researchers, and authors painstakingly endeavor to unearth hidden historical personalities and artifacts for the sake of identification and for the purpose of acknowledging roles played in social and political life. Upon stumbling on the remains of a revered or detested figure, the process of recovery and documentation gets off the ground. Finally, the lost glory and human dignity of that person is restored. That is why in the developed world even the wretched of the earth have their place in history. In developed nations, children rehearse names of prominent people that impacted the lives of their forefathers and their nation.
Western history is replete with wastrels who frittered away their nation’s resources, spurious aficionados, destructive infidels, false prophets, lackadaisical leaders, cantankerous and indolent impostors, treacherous assassins and wretched killers whose names appear in the golden pages of historical antiquity. Unfortunately, in the developing world, factors like human envy, corruption, lack of resources and expertise hinder projects of like nature. Because humans are naturally selfish, there is the tendency to shower praise on the dead and not on the living.
Honorable Abdi Aress Mohamed, Member of Parliament for Garissa Central constituency within the district of Garissa in Kenya’s North Eastern Province, may be remembered for initiating various developmental projects during his tenure of politics from 1969 to 1983. In a period spanning 15 years, Hon. Abdi Aress tirelessly represented his constituents in parliament and in government bringing in projects that tremendously altered the living conditions of a pastoral society wedged between insecurity, poverty, illiteracy, and disease. The honorable leader may be credited for laying the groundwork for what today’s leaders are unable to initiate.
During his tenure as an elected representative, the Honorable Member of Parliament carpeted the dusty streets of Garissa town with tarmac-a marvelous project undertaken by Nurudin Construction Company. The National Youth Service (NYS), a government administered program, and the Ministry of Roads, oversaw repair of damaged gravel roads and the construction of new macadamized roads to the various towns and settlements dotting the district. Besides a 9 km stretch of tarmac added long after his departure by his successor Hon. Hussein Maalim Mohamed who represented Dujis Constituency from 1983 to 2007, the 4 km tarmac laid down by political doyen Abdi Aress is the only civilized visible familiar sight to first time visitors. Hon. Abdi Aress left behind an enduring legacy of progress and civilization that add up to his political career. He brought in a succession of projects including electricity, schools, farming, hospitals, and water. His departure from politics resulted in the abrupt retardation of infrastructural developments he envisaged. Drastic rise in the population of Garissa town as a result of urbanization led to negative consequences and increased demand for county council services consequently leading to water shortages that lasted for over two grueling decades. Increased vehicular and human traffic, menacing stray animals, unpredictable rain and weather patterns, and laxity on the part of the county council accelerated the dilapidation of the only tarmac town residents had known for years.
The construction of the massive Garissa General Hospital (GGH) kicked-off when Abdi Aress was in power. This medical facility alleviated rising cases of killer diseases like tuberculosis, tropical malaria, and waterborne diseases. In later years, the establishment of a nursing school elevated the hospital’s status to that of a training hospital. To this day GGH serves people of all walks of life including patients from war torn Somalia. The introduction of modern veterinary services and the eradication of tsetse fly, the primary biological vectors of trypanosomes that cause human sleeping sickness and animal trypanosomiasis, got a boost during Hon. Abdi Aress’ leadership.
Unquestionably, he is an unsung hero who deserves to be recognized for the tremendous contributions he made to advance the living conditions of his constituents. Hon. Abdi Aress rose to prominence during the devastating shifta menace of the sixties. He served the administrations of Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Arap Moi respectively. It must have been a daunting task initiating projects of such nature at a time when the Somali-inhabited North Eastern Province suffered calculated instances of cattle rustling, poaching, social dissent, and protracted insecurity.
Unlike modern politicians who usurp power and wealth through corrupt practices, Mheshimiwa Abdi Aress did not amass wealth of any kind. He has gone down in Kenya’s political history as the most honest and diligent political figure since Kenya’s attainment of independence in 1963.