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20 Oct

The Geo-politics of the Omo-Turkana Basin

 

 

"We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children."

 

 

 

 

 

Has it come to this again? The Government of Kenya (GoK) is sitting back and waiting to be invited to analyze the current destruction on the Omo River, while Government of Ethiopia(GoE) asks them to await communication.Meanwhile, concerns are being raised locally and across the globe, as the Omo tribal peoples are arrested for their opposition to all these forms of development that will not only destroy the environment but totally destroy their livelihoods turning man against man as the tribes fight for limited resources, these destruction transverses the borders into Kenya.  At what point do we relate their opposition to the concerns raised, considering their opposition to the projects lie on the same shared resource; The Omo River.  Shouldn’t these be enough to get them out of slumber? The silence by our leadership, both President Kibaki and Right Hon Raila is appalling. Our own PM sat across PM Meles Zenawi at an Energy conference in Oslo discussing all the other sources of energy that Kenya is trying to invest in from Solar, to wind and geothermal, and while he rightly understood the issues around hydro-power and especially large hydro projects and with the shrinking water bodies around Africa and the world, he fell short of telling Meles, “buzz off…..it’s a shared river, and you cannot go around bulldozing other people”. That is the leadership we need, where we are not ruled by geopolitics, and bilateral agreements that are made at the expense of the fellow citizens, those who you count as potential votes. Right Hon. Raila himself declared in Feb 2010 that Kenya can no longer depend on hydro-power yet Ethiopia is more drought prone, and with all the ecosystem changes leading to destruction of the ecology and hydrology of the largest desert lake in the world; Lake Turkana which lies in Kenya as well as the entire Omo delta, a breeding ground for fish.

Pondering through the recent developments along the Omo-Turkana basin, I remember the words of Prof Wangari Maathai “It is not as if leaders do not understand the impact of the unjust political and economic systems which are promoting environmental degradation and promoting a non-sustainable development model. When will such business be considered unacceptable in the world community?......Africa’s challenges are being tackled at different levels, and some successes have been recorded. But not fast enough. The concepts of sustainable development, appropriate development models, and participatory development are not foreign. We are aware that our children and the future generations have a right to a world which will also need energy, should be free of pollution, should be rich with biological diversity and should have a climate which will sustain all forms of life.” This seems so true when I look at our Kenyan leaders, and I realize that most people take water for granted. It seldom comes to mind that water has economic value which, in today’s circumstances, is overwhelming its social value. It is even less common to think of water as a political issue. With the continued fight against the construction of Gibe III, while arms of Kenyan government ignore both local and global concerns of the impact of Gibe III dam and subsequent Gibe IV and V downstream, and as if that is not enough, the sit back don’t care attitude as further sugar cane and cotton irrigation projects are undertaken, which will use up the water. We know the impacts of such large irrigation projects and especially water thirsty crops such as sugarcane and cotton, where the exaggerated use of water which affects the human and animal life and causes direct and indirect negative impacts on terrestrial and marine ecosystems as well as changing the course of rivers towards these over 200,000 ha of plantations, draining the downstream flow of the Omo river and further destroying an already vulnerable ecosystem, livelihoods and totally altering the chemical balance of Lake Turkana, as well as creating a sense of resource insecurity among the communities, which exacerbates the resource conflicts in the region. All this is happening while our government sits back and awaits an invitation to Ethiopia to “diplomatically” discuss the use and management of River Omo, we seem to always believe what GoE claims, with no question or concern. All the while, we have brought to our government’s attention the current undertakings within the lower Omo as tracts of land are cleared to start off the irrigation plantations, keeping in mind that it is not news to them, we have shared the GoE strategic plan to use the Omo River with the Ministry of Water, Northern Kenya, and various relevant governmental bodies, yet they sit and await an invitation letter. Quite worrying especially when our government  makes statements regarding other countries policies that have absolutely no impact on us, yet we cannot speak up on issues affecting our own people; further clarification that to serve in GoK, one’s qualifications should be convenience; how conveniently one handles matters; where you see what you need to see, read what you need to read, and declare what is needed to be declared, bottom line being the convenience of the issues and who is it convenient for being the underlying factor.

While we dance and declare ourselves democratic; following the will of the people they call it; Myan Mar and Burma despite their political status have shown in the recent weeks to be more democratic than Kenya; Oh Yes, Myan Mar’s President Thein Sein, told Parliament that he had to listen to the desires of his people and suspended the Myitsone dam, as the Burmese government followed suit as it was a project cutting across countries. These are countries that very few people have regard for but they have taken a bold step against China, who every nation seems to fear, while China threatens to take them to court. I would think that is what representing the people means, being democratic and standing by the will of the people is all about, unless in Kenyan terms; by the people, for the people and representing the people means hydro-politics and geopolitics of resources at the expense of the same people.

 

 


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Last modified on Thursday, 20 October 2011 05:10
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