Friday, March 27, 2009

Journey through Kenya’s most rugged, dangerous road

By Ali Abdi

Consider the sight of a policeman in a denim jacket with his G-3 rifle hanging clumsily from his shoulder, a woman breastfeeding her baby, a sleepy girl and a disabled man are some of the passengers seeking the attention of a broker.

The broker is a young man called Wako. His job is to connect passengers travelling to Moyale and Marsabit from Isiolo town with lorry drivers plying the route.

The brokers, working in cahoots with drivers, have formed a cartel where travellers can only get a ride on the lorries through them. They wait for passengers at dusty market centres between Isiolo and Moyale.

‘‘Those who prefer small vehicles should see me and those who want lorries should see Hashim,’’ Mr Wako announces.

Famine and insecurity

A four wheel drive vehicle that broke down 10km from Marsabit town. [PHOTOS: ALI ABDI /STANDARD]

I was on an assignment to Marsabit and Moyale to cover famine and insecurity. The policeman was going back to his station in Marsabit from vacationing at his home in Kisii while the one-legged man was returning from selling his cows and goats at Nairobi ’s Kia Maiko market.

Northbound travellers from Isiolo have two options: trucks ferrying goods or small vehicles, always four-wheel-drive models, mainly owned by NGOs and Government. The trucks usually carry an assortment of goods but on return trips carry livestock.

At 11pm, Wako announced that there would be three small vehicles leaving for Marsabit the following morning.

Travellers pay the brokers and the driver, even those with (GK) Government number plates and NGO vehicles. Wako took us to a GK driver who told us the vehicle would leave any time from dawn.

I paid Sh1,000 to the driver and three brokers who assisted in getting the vehicle.

‘‘Make sure you are awake by 3am so you do not miss the vehicle,’’ said our man after we parted with the cash and were given tickets similar to those issued in buses.

Vehicles start early strung in convoys for security reasons and also to avoid the high temperatures during the day.

Our early rise proved unnecessary as our driver overslept and we left Isiolo at around 9am, with 14 passengers — eight crouched in the luggage area.

It is about 250km to Marsabit town. Another 276km would be awaiting to Moyale making a total of 526 km. Most sections are rocky while some have black cotton soil that make it impassable during the rainy season.

Construction work on the Isiolo-Merille Road, a distance of 136 km, began early last year but due to post-election violence, the work fell behind schedule.

Construction work

Chinese construction firm China Wu Yi is working on the first phase that connects Nairobi to Addis Ababa.

It is always advisable for a driver to ensure his car has good tyres, springs, shock absorbers and radiator and also to carry two spare wheels.

Former President Moi’s V8 Range Rover once had an engine knock on the same route at Sereolipi when he had gone to visit families of MPs who died in a plane crash in Marsabit.

There are no outlets for spare parts or garages except in Laisamis and in towns like Marsabit and Moyale. Apart from vehicle breakdowns, the driver and the passengers have to think about danger spots where bandits lurk.

Mobile phone networks are not clear apart from near towns like Marsabit, Moyale, Laisamis and Archer’s Post. Telkom wireless, however, is available in most trading centres.

We were worried of possible attack especially along the route between Archer’s Post and Sereolipi in Samburu East District. The most notorious spot is at Mlima Wamba (Samburu East) about 70km from Isiolo town and Mlima Tatu just after Merille in Laisamis District.

Last May, bandits killed a Chinese national, who was among engineers working near Sereolipi.

We did not encounter them but saw herdsmen with guns on the highway. We got a puncture a few kilometres from Mlima Wamba and out joint efforts saw the tyre changed in 10 minutes.

We had covered more than four hours up to Merille and ate lunch there before proceeding to Laisamis trading centre.

The drive between Laisamis and Logologo was rough and rocky. The road becomes steep as we approach the foothills of Mt Marsabit, a few kilometres from the boundary between Laisamis and Saku constituencies. Tension had been high in Saku and the section between Logologo and Marsabit town following animosity between two clans.

Reason: A pedestrian had been killed some 5km from Marsabit town on the same road a day before our journey.

As I had an assignment at Lasiamis, Saku and North Horr, I had to alight and stop for a day. I booked myself into a lodge that had no running water.

Despite its high altitude, Marsabit suffers a chronic water shortage and hoteliers have to buy water. I stayed at Jey Jey Centre managed by former Saku MP Jarso Falana.

Buying water

Mr Falana says he buys water from Logologo, 40km away, for his guests who are urged to use it sparingly.

After six days in the larger Marsabit, I travelled towards the border town of Moyale, on another GK vehicle. It took us eight hours and two tyre bursts.

The route from Bubisa to Turbi covers the Did Galgalu plains, a bare rocky area where temperatures run close to 40 degrees centigrade. Truck drivers say they only pass through the section at night to avoid engine knockouts.

By the time we made it to Moyale at dusk, I was a dust-covered and fatigued wreck.

Make good your threat, Karua dares critics

By Antony Gitonga and Peter Opiyo

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua has dared MPs opposed to her to make good their censure Motion threat.

Ms Karua said she would not be intimidated, adding that a Cabinet seat was not a "matter of life and death".

She attributed the move to a cartel of corrupt leaders and anti-reform forces.

"I will not be intimidated by anyone," she said.

Karua was speaking at Lakeside Hotel In Naivasha when she met head teachers from the larger Kirinyaga District.

On her presidential ambitions, Karua said: "Those attacking me should know am not going to drop my ambitions simply because they are against me. I will be in the race come 2012."

And her Narc-Kenya party dismissed the threat as baseless and political.

Speaking at a news conference at the party headquarters, Secretary-General Danson Mungatana claimed those behind the Motion had been sponsored to silence the party chairperson.

"We know corruption is fighting back and are aware the maize and oil scandals’ money is trying to fight the voice of anti-corruption," said Mr Mungatana.

Failed responsibility

Speaking on Wednesday at a rally in Kamukunji, seven MPs accused Karua of abdicating her role and failing to reform the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission and the Judiciary.

Local MP Simon Mbugua said: "When we talk about political responsibility, we should live to it. She was at the forefront indicting Ruto (William) and asked him to bow to political responsibility. Dockets under the Justice ministry have failed. She should lead by example and resign."

Others present were Mr Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany), Mr Magerer Lang’at (Kipkelion), Mr Ferdinand Waititu (Embakasi), Mr Benjamin Lang’at (Ainamoi), Mr Ababu Namwamba (Budalang’i) and Mr Joseph Lekuton (Laisamis)

But Narc-Kenya defended Karua.

"She has brought many Bills, including those that led to the formation of the Coalition Government and appointment of experts on a new constitution," said Mungatana.

He said Karua had demanded the resignation of ministers implicated in the maize and oil scandals.

Scientists sound warning over water conflict

By Duncan Mboyah

Ecologists have warned that competition for scarce water between wildlife and pastoral communities is causing rapid disappearance of wildlife in the Masai Mara Game Reserve.

This life and death struggle threatens to erode the potential earnings from the tourist market, reports a new study by International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The presence of livestock close to water interferes with wildlife patterns and reduces the safety of their resting sites.

"These changes, coupled with repeated droughts, floods and declining woodland cover, have jointly contributed to nearly 70 per cent decline in wildlife numbers in the Mara in recent times," says lead researcher Joseph Ogutu.

The researchers are concerned by the clustering of people around water points during serious droughts in the region, a practice that encourages pastoral settlement in ideal wildlife areas, displacing wildlife and therefore upsetting present and future earnings from tourism.

The study found that pastoralists, their livestock and dogs are a danger to predators (lions and spotted hyenas) as they force them to stay away from the water points.

At such times, only the giraffe and elephant, which are free from predation, risk due to their large body size, forage right next to water sources where their preferred food is most abundant.

Conducted in the Mara region in south western, the study found that human population in the region has increased 25-fold since 1957, while pastoral settlements have increased 23-fold over the same period. "As the numbers of homes and associated development infrastructure have increased, wildlife calving grounds have been ploughed for commercial wheat cultivation and grazing areas for wildlife and livestock fragmented and lost in parts of the pastoral ranches in the Mara," Dr Ogutu says. The ILRI scientists foresee the decline in tourism earnings in Kenya and Tanzania as a result.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

CDF - Priorities

CDF money has been instrumental in both development and misapproriation in both villages, towns and locations. CDF has been used for many developmental projects and income generating activities. Very little has been been set aside for the developement of education both in village level and also highere education.

How can this enormous amount of money be tapped and channeled to improve education in villages and locations. Why am i saying this? It is because the more we concentrate in improving education in the lower levels, we will inturn sensitise the whole system to concentrate on education and believe in it.

So let us do it....

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


We need a committee for education.

Welcome - Karibuni - Antijingu

Antaasaupa pookin
We have been chatting and exchanging views on the way forward for our pastoral community - the tiny villages in Samburu, Laisamis, Marsabit and other pastoral districts.

It is still amazing how we started talking together, forwarding emails - thanks to Mugabe- may be because the problems our people continue as larin and nkolongi pass.

We have voice now.

Let us maximize our concerns and expose the problems of our people and make them an obvious target so as to end them altogether. Let us open up opportunities for out people and take measures in near future and make our villages better if.