By Onyikwa O
In one of the paragraphs in Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things fall apart’, we are reminded that a frog does not go jumping around in broad daylight for nothing. That is why when William Ruto suddenly becomes a vocal advocate of the conservation of our forests, those of us that recall his ‘mfua inatoga mpinkuni, sio kwa forest campaign’, sit up and sniff around for the real reason for his strange pronouncements. However, the scent can only be picked up from two ongoing events in so called ‘Jubilee zones’.
The first is the case of the young Kikuyu journalist who is contemplating suicide after his employer was instructed to sack him for highlighting the ongoing environmental catastrophe that the people of Murang’a are facing following the diversion of rivers in there to direct most of its water to the huge private development that ‘Muthamaki’ is putting up in Ruiru.
This, incident, as well as the robust efforts that Muthamaki put in to whip Murang’a politicians into supporting the project even when the drying up of all the rivers in that County is the most inevitable result of his ‘little hanky panky with their lives’, reveal that he is keenly aware that it is a political powder keg that he must take very seriously, handle very carefully and manage well lest it brings down ‘Uthamaki’ because the ones being shafted hardest by these ‘tunnels of death’ are the ‘Uthamakistanis’ and those who believe they are ‘in Kafamen’.
The second is the Itare Dam project which seeks to divert most of the water in the South Rift to Naivasha where Muthamaki is also diverting the SGR to, to serve the private industrial park, inland port and several other businesses they are setting up there. All of Nyanza and most of Western will have drier rivers, less rainfall, a hotter sun, less fertile soils and so on, but their suffering is not anywhere near what Kericho, Bomet and such other South Rift Counties that are in Kafamen are already going through.
I have been to Kericho and Bomet a lot lately, and had to keep checking if I were really in the once cool ~ actually cold ~ South Rift, or I had been teleported to Kisumu. The place is blazing hot, and ‘the environment’ is suddenly a popular subject of debate there.
That is why the debate must now be steered away from ‘water towers’ to forests, because unlike the former where Muthamaki is the obvious villain, the latter has multitudes of peasants who can be blamed for the catastrophe without political consequences for Muthamaki. And who would be the best placed to convince the ‘people in Kafamen’ to blame themselves ~ and not Muthamaki ~ for the dry river beds? You guessed right! It is Ulliam. It always works for them. If he tells them ‘Mganga’ cast a spell on their rivers to empty all their water into Lake Victoria, that is the narrative they will run with.
Meanwhile, Wangari Maathai’s warning that “nature is very unforgiving” rings true now, more than it ever has. You cannot fight nature and hope to win. We must let the rivers flow according to God’s plan, not according to Muthamaki’s greed.