Trouble Brews as Drought Devastates Kenya

In the midst of a devastating drought, Kenyan agriculture and tourism dwindles as inter-tribal conflict rises...

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Photo courtesy of nytimes.com

Kenya is suffering one of its worse droughts in a decade and despite the warnings of aid workers, little has been done in the wake of a dryness that is killing not only the land, but its people as well.

Many fingers are pointed toward the Kenyan government which has been accused of allowing infighting and political maneuvering to get in the way of helping its citizens: From the New York Times:

Some government officials have even been implicated in a scandal to illegally sell off thousands of tons of the nation’s grain reserves as a famine was looming.

So far, a huge, international aid operation to avert mass hunger has not kicked in, or at least not to the degree needed. The United Nations World Food Program recently said that nearly four million Kenyans — about a tenth of the population — urgently needed food.

“Red lights are flashing across the country,” the agency said.

But donor nations have been slow to respond, and a United Nations-led emergency appeal for $576 million is less than half financed.

Part of the reason may be the growing disappointment with Kenya’s leaders. They have been poked and prodded by Western ambassadors — and their own citizens — to overhaul the justice system, the police force and the electoral commission. The outcry followed a widely discredited election in 2007 that set off a wave of violence, claiming more than 1,000 lives.

But Kenyan politicians seem more preoccupied with positioning themselves for the next election in 2012 than with cleaning up the mess from the last one. Few reforms have been accomplished and corruption continues to flourish, as the grain scandal currently under investigation has made painfully clear.

“At a time like this, we need donor confidence,” said Nicholas Wasunna, a humanitarian adviser for the aid group World Vision. But he said that donors might be put off by “the politics of what’s happening in the country.”

Political infighting getting in the way of helping people? That's the kind of thing AMERICA doesn't stand for!

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