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Kenya: Drought, famine worsen
NewsNotes, November-December 2009

Drought and famine affecting millions of people in Kenya continue to worsen and are taking the lives of both people and livestock. But drought is only one of the challenges facing the people of Kenya and East Africa. The bishops of East Africa who are members of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA) listed the following in their intervention at the recently concluded Africa Synod:

Impact of global economic crisis: The serious recession in the developed world has meant less trading opportunities, fewer new investments, lowered aid levels (for both government and church), increased impoverishment and doubt about reaching the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Governance dynamics: The hope that was raised by the birth of multi-party democracies in 1990s has been tempered by poor leadership, chaotic electoral politics and weak shared power arrangements. Corruption at every level undercuts service for the people.

Environmental crisis: Our countries are experiencing the ecological disasters of global warming (with consequent floods and draughts) widespread deforestation, extractive industry pollution, with consequences for food security and displacement of people.

Intensive violent conflicts: Armed conflicts continue to threaten people in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda, and of late we have experienced post election violence in Kenya and in our neighboring countries: xenophobic attacks in South Africa and instability in Zimbabwe.

Assertive violent presence: Global Islam’s increased position of power influences aggressive demands in many of our countries for more recognition, adoption of Kadhi Courts, introduction of Sharia legislation.

HIV and AIDS: The pandemic continues to ravage our populations while in many instances it has slipped from a prominent place of concern and response on the agenda of governments, civil society and even the churches.

They particularly noted poverty eradication and environmental concerns: “We cannot help but be moved and shamed by the impoverishment of the majority of the people in all our AMECEA countries. The suffering and marginalization of these children of God is simple unacceptable. Advocacy efforts for better government policies and promotion of improved church social services must be a priority of pastoral response. The ‘preferential option for the poor’ should provide a fundamental question to evaluate government, business, church and personal choices: ‘What does this decision mean for the poor?’ …

“We know that the challenges of climate change and global warming are particularly affecting our local people. Serious droughts are causing food security problems and promoting human migrations that are not always peaceful. In several of our countries, extractive industries are creating pollution troubles that foreign investors are not always responsive to. Forests are cut, but new trees are not planted. Pope Benedict XVI has cautioned us that if we want peace among ourselves, we must make peace with creation. Ecological reconciliation is very important for social reconciliation.”

According to the Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA), the drought has led to inter-ethnic violence over scarce water and pasture among some pastoralist groups. In mid-September, at least 30 people were massacred in a conflict between the Pokot and Samburu communities in the northern Diocese of Maralal. Several people, including children, were seriously wounded.

The Kenyan government is buying livestock from herders but some of the animals are too weak to make the trek to the Kenya Meat Commission slaughterhouses near Nairobi.

Yarumal missionary Fr. Vitner Vidal Marting, who works in Maralal, appealed for food aid from the government and humanitarian organizations to feed famine-stricken people in the arid area, where humans and animals compete for the same water points. Fr. Marting said the desperate situation has increased insecurity due to the shortages; the movement of people in search of food, water and pasture for their animals is also causing conflict among the Samburu, Pokot and Turkana communities.

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