Luos are Kenyans. Politicians should Stop the Condescending Nonsense about Accommodating them

17 mins read

As far as we all know, Luos in our country are Kenyans by right not by any favour, and like everybody else, they pay their taxes and do all the other things Kenyans do to grow their country and work for national development. In a nutshell, any Kenyan government has as much obligation to work with and help development within the Luo communities not as some benevolent act of charity or a big favour but as a responsibility to every Kenyan.

We all talk about tribalism as a bad thing and a curse for our country but when leaders from different communities get together with the government, especially the Luos we have this big talk.

” Oh finally the Luos are growing up and maybe this time they will behave themselves and work with the government”

Those tribalistic tones are camouflaged in all sorts of convoluted talk and language but we all get what the politicians are saying and sometimes it is annoying and not helpful in bringing the country together to collectively move forward as a nation of many communities.

In the Ruto Nyanza tour which has been very positive and forward-looking as opposed to a grumbling match, it is sad that some of the big leaders are busy telling Luos how lucky they are and that the government will bend backward to accommodate them.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has said that the Kenya Kwanza administration will serve all Kenyans equally despite their political affiliations.

Gachagua who spoke at the Homa Bay Municipal Market on Friday brushed off critics who had alleged that the government has been sidelining those who did not vote for the Kenya Kwanza administration during the August polls in 2022.

“I want to assure you that together with President William Ruto, we are committed to serving all Kenyans and this can be demonstrated by the number of leaders including a CS and a PS from Nyanza region who are presently serving in our government,” Gachagua said.

“I take my hat off to you the people of Homa Bay for coming out in large numbers to welcome our President. We have come here to court you so that we can partner in future and I am sure you will like us,” Gachagua said.

That tone from the DP Gachagua is uncalled for. “Oh our government is not going to throw you down the river or in the lake. We have given some CS and PS jobs to Luos and now you are welcome in our Kenya”

That is what Gachagua was telling Luos in Homa Bay and nobody is interested in that condescending talk at any level. When you are in Luo land, you are in Kenya just like when you are in Nanyuki no need to talk down to them and they are not stupid they understand exactly what you are insinuating. Nobody cares whether you have one or two CS and PS from the Luo community. What people care about is real development on the ground.

There are some real serious development issues that need to be addressed and President Ruto came face to face with some of those issues. On Kisumu Shipyard the Ruto team visited the real issue there is when will this shipyard be operational and helping not just the local economy but the national economy as well.

Where are the ships in the Shipyard? It is quite sad that the Shipyard was at its best and doing booming business in the whole region during colonial times but because of toxic and trabalist Kenyan politics since independence, not just the Shipyard but the entire shipping business in Lake Victoria with Kisumu as the headquarter of that lucrative business for the region was neglected and trashed to the ground.

This did not just ruin good economic opportunities for Luos but it messed up a rising shipping industry within Kenya and has done terrible harm to the Kenyan economy.

What Kenyans want to hear from President Ruto and Kisumu Governor Ayang’ Nyong’o are the specific plans being put in place right now as we speak to complete the revival of that shipping industry so Kenyans can export goods and actually ship oil to countries like Uganda and others in the region.

Killing this industry was not killing Luos, it was killing Kenya, and building it back is not about Luos but about building the Kenyan economy.

President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned the Kisumu Shipyard in August 2022. So it is going to take some time to get it up and running. That is only possible if work is being done there on a daily basis. Just visits by politicians will not help. The Kisumu Shipyard is not supposed to be a museum but a functioning port better than it was when the British run it as Port Florence.

Governor Nyong’o needs to work with the people on the ground and develop a comprehensive rebuilding plan for the port and how to get the whole place fully operational. The governor should then present his plan to his constituents in Kisumu and then take something real to President Ruto and let them figure out what the national government can start doing right now to enable the full completion of the project. Also, figure out what the county government needs to do and how to get international support and financial help to complete everything.

Once that plan is ready to go, Kisumu residents are going to do whatever they can to get their port working and operational. The ball right now is in the hands of the governor and the president. Let them do their job and this could be a historic success for everybody.

Then there is that hyacinth menace that has to be dealt with once and for all instead of doing bits here and there. That never works with hyacinth because it grows back at an alarming rate and unless the whole thing is wiped out you are just letting it grow back and eventually it will wipe out the whole lake.

Kenya has to destroy that hyacinth before it completely destroys all forms of commercial activities and life in Lake Victoria. It is a huge economic and survival that our country must undertake and the economic and social rewards will be enormous. If people have to carry their boats for miles before they reach the water in the lake it means effectively it is dead for humans and has been colonized by hyacinth.

How can our country possibly let that kind of tragedy happen? Lake Victoria is facing an existential threat like never before that cannot be allowed to happen.

One crazy thing with hyacinth is how quickly it expands in the areas it occupies. A few years ago I was travelling in that fantastic ferry from Luanda Kotieno beach in Rarieda to Rusinga Island and along the journey we see some hyacinth plants poking their heads here and there.

I asked my nephew who lives in the area what is going on. He told me if I come back after a year or so there will be mountains of hyacinth plants coming from those few I was seeing. So let all levels of government go to complete war with hyacinth to get out of our lake.

The other element that used to happen in Lake Victoria when the shipping system was working and there were small and big boats going around is that there were several port feeders called piers all around the lake and now they are turning into complete wrecks because we stopped using them 20 years ago.

Homa Bay feeder port is now just a junkyard and there are so many of them including Kendu Bay, Muhuru Bay, and Asembo Bay. This key infrastructure system that allowed people to travel and transport produce to the markets is now dead and their revival starts with sorting the shipping system from Kisumu. Here is what the Homa Bay feeder port looks like today.

It is a sin really that we have this lake and all the possibilities in economic activities like fishing, travel, and huge potential for tourism and they are just dying in front of us and we are doing very little to sort that out.

In many countries in the world, facilities and the kind of economic potential these kind of assets provide are developed and used to the maximum with great beneficial results. In Kenya, we just talk about development a thousand times a day and we don’t even know what to do with some great development assets we have. That has to stop.

When you look at the remains of some of the port towns that were thriving as feeder ports it is really sad and painful and has to be addressed.

Here is what remains of Kendu Bay feeder port.

And Kendu Bay one of the oldest small towns in Kenya is still surviving although overshadowed by the big brother Hama Bay.

An Asembo Bay which was the entrance to Siaya with goods and produce moving easily from Kisumu and across from the other piers all that is gone and the Nyilima town that grew with it is also nearly out of life.

In the last few years, there has been a lot of talk about reviving the 5 Lake Vitoria ports which have been dying since 1978 but everything starts with rebuilding the Kisumu Port and Kenya would help rebuild a whole bunch of towns and communities into vibrant economic centers.

There is no excuse to do nothing and let these big economic assets keep rotting while our politicians scream about development every day Do something and stop talking and Kenyans will join you and bring all their energy and resources to help develop their country.

The get-together between President Ruto and leaders of the Luo community is fine but now we want to see real progress on the ground. The naysayers who were waiting for some showdown between President Ruto and elected leaders in Nyanza are now back to the drawing book. Let them stay there and let us get to work. We, of course, feel sorry for our so-called “Luo Liberators” who just had a miserable weekend but that is their problem. People in the region are very comfortable moving forward and they are doing just that. Good.

The other thing I just want to mention briefly in terms of development and the Lake Victoria region is that one of the biggest economic activities that have emerged in just the last decade is fish farming.

It is a huge industry in the lake and someone like Dr. Ochanda the Bondo MP who was at one of the meetings and Governor Wanga of Homa Bay know that very well. Dr. Ochanda is a big promoter of fish farming in the lake which is now getting under the system known as “Cage Fish Farming”. The potential to turn that into a huge industry in the area and in Kenya is really good.

One problem that our national and county governments should address is the use of oil-run boat engines and propellers. That is causing problems as too much oil is spilled in the lake and over time it could be terrible pollution in the lake and will actually ruin the fish farms and kill fish with pollutants.

Kenyans need to use electric boat engines but we don’t even have electricity around the lake so if you buy that electric boat engine it is useless. In Tanzania, scientists there are developing solar-powered food preservation machines for their tomatoes and other foods

A longer strategy is to start working with all these people in the international community who want to keep the lakes and waters clean to help us develop a system where we will use electric-powered boat engines and also help build solar-powered electric booster centres in our fishing beaches.

The bigger issue of helping the fishing folks to set up fish processing plants around the lake region instead of just dumping the fish every day when they don’t sell them. That will be a discussion for another day.

Adongo Ogony is a Kenyan Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada

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