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The East African : Jul 19th 2015
22 The EastAfrican OPINION JULY 18-24,2015 Kenyans bewa≥e the politics of fo≥eskins and the ≥esistible ≥ise of Moses Ku≥ia He may be advancing his theories and issuing these threats to make the headlines, but this is dangerous ground.” Tee Ngugi towards its logical conclusion. First, it was vitriol against certain ethnic groups, then he advanced to primitive biology, linking cognitive ability to the presence or absence of a foreskin, now he is threatening to urge his supporters to use machetes against those opposed to projects being carried out by the National Youth Service. It is quite clear at which people the M threat is directed. Kuria may be advancing his theories and issuing these threats in order to make the headlines or to build himself up as the “protector of his ethnic group,” and thus — given oses Kuria, the Member of Parliament for Gatundu South, is gradually building his ideology of hate the nature of politics in Kenya — ensure perpetual re-election. But this is slippery and dangerous ground in a country such as ours where we, thanks to politicians such as Kuria, see everything through a tribal lens. Egged on by our politicians — in coded language, of course — we see the ethnic other as the barrier standing between us and opportunity. The trajectory of this way of thinking can easily lead to an apocalyptic end. The Nazis in Germany too propa- gated the idea that the economic and social problems in the country were caused by “greedy Jews” and other non-Aryan races. At the same time, they propagated the false biology of inferiority of the non-Aryan races. This thinking led to the “final solution to the Jewish problem,” the Holocaust in which the lives of six million Jewish children, women and men were extinguished in specially constructed gas chambers. Closer home — in more senses than one — is the example of Rwanda. After Independence, the Hutu-dominated government began casting the Tutsi as treacherous, greedy and so on. In the Genocide Memorial Museum in Kigali, there is a 10-point guideline drawn up by Hutu politicians that purports to show the moral and biological inadequacies of the Tutsi. As this toxic propaganda was go- ing on, the Hutu were told that those stopping there advancement were the Tutsi. Thus the periodic killings of the Tutsi, which would culminate in the Rwandan version of the “final solution to the Tutsi problem” in 1994. In Kenya, ethnic violence in 1969, 1992, 1997 and in 2007/8 would too be preceded by propaganda depicting the victims of the violence as somehow biologically inferior and as being the cause of the problems facing the perpetrator communities. But this kind of politics is a fool’s gold because it is based on falsehood. And so, as Rwanda’s Paul Kagame explains in an interview that when, after getting rid of the ethnic group perceived to be the cause of your problems, you find these problems persist, you begin to look inwards, to clans and families within your ethnic group. Over the years in Kenya, progressive people have ceded national agendasetting to crooks of various shades. Those who are now in positions of leadership and those who get their opinions on radios and television are those who either served the ethno-fascist Kanu state under Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi, or those who imbibed its values so thoroughly that they have been unable to reorient their thinking according to the new constitutional order. So now, those setting the agenda are largely primitive tribal biologists, stone throwers, women-slappers and arrogant thieves. We must find ways of reorienting ourselves to the ways of thinking and behaving proposed by the new Constitution. The Constitution presupposes logic, mutual ethnic empathy, selflessness, etc, as the basis of our political and social interactions. The Constitution’s proposition of a politics conducted on the basis of “community of interest,” not tribe, is revolutionary, and would rescue our politics from the Middle Ages and haul it into the 21st century. But at the same time, we must make it costly, in both a criminal and social The Constitution’s proposition of a politics conducted on the basis of ‘community of interest,’ would rescue our politics from the Middle Ages sense, for hate mongers. Jail them if necessary and/or ostracise them socially and politically by making ethnic hate “uncool.” It is also crucial that intellectuals, civil society, religious leaders, students, professionals, businessmen, etc, re-appropriate national agenda-setting from — as Bob Marley once sang — “these crazy baldheads.” in Cameroon for the first inter-governmental meeting held to put a crucial new international pact into action. The aim is to build on the momentum, A which in March led to the adoption by the international community of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a 15-year roadmap that aims to make the world a safer place. More than ever, there is a need to reduce ex- posure and vulnerabilities to prevent the creation of new risks and reduce existing risks. Targeted action is required to tackle underlying risk drivers such as poverty, climate change, unplanned urbanisation, population growth, poor land management, decimation of vital ecosystems, and weak governance and policies. The Sendai Framework stands on four pillars: Improving risk governance; understanding disaster risk; investing in resilience; and enhancing preparedness for effective response, recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Like the rest of the continent, East Africa knows only too well what disaster risk means. It frequently faces natural threats in the shape of floods, droughts and landslides, as well as epidemics and man-made hazards, all of which mesh together to claim lives, affect livelihoods and undermine development. Data gathered over the past 20 years shows that in terms of the number of people affected by disasters, Asian nations dominate the top ten. But there are two African countries on that list, both from East Africa: Kenya and Ethiopia. When the numbers are standardised Floods o≥ ≥ain, Af≥ica is heavily beset by natu≥al disaste≥s Ma≥ga≥eta Wahlst≥öm frica has a chance this coming week to set the tone for the global future of disaster risk reduction, as ministers from across the continent meet risk reduction policy and law. After the humanitarian crisis triggered by Africa can build on the momentum of the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.” to reflect the proportion of people affected per 100,000 of the population, the picture is stark: Eritrea, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Kenya and Niger emerge as the worst affected. Direct economic losses resulting from dis- asters so far this century are now believed to be 50 per cent higher than all previous estimates, standing at $2.5 trillion globally. Total direct losses in 40 low- and middleincome countries amounted to $305 billion over the past 30 years. In Africa alone, from 1990 to 2012, an average of 152 disasters were recorded per year, the majority triggered by hydro-meteorological hazards such as floods and storms. In 2014, over 6.8 million Africans were affected directly by a total of 114 recorded disasters. East Africa has been in the vanguard of the continent’s efforts to confront risk head on. Last month saw the launch of an initiative by parliamentarians from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda. Keenly aware that hazards straddle their borders, they set up the East African Disaster Risk Reduction Parliamentarian Platform to boost governance and reinforce the capacity of populations to build sustainable livelihoods. They have also pushed their agenda to the East African Legislative Assembly for the enactment of a regional disaster the 2008-2011 droughts, and all too aware of a future in which climate change will amplify water stress in Africa, the region’s Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) took new action. It launched the Igad Drought Disaster Resilience and Sustainability Initiative, which has spurred significant progress both at regional and national levels in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda. Other examples are manifold. Both Ethio- pia and Kenya have integrated their country programming on drought resilience into their long-term development plans. Uganda has made the Disaster Risk Reduction Office the focal point for implementation of resilience programmes under the prime minister. Such actions will be in the spotlight from July 21-23 in Yaoundé at the 7th Africa Working Group Meeting and High Level Meeting on Disaster Risk Reduction, which marks the start of a series of such regional gatherings around the world. The talks will bring together government representatives from over 30 countries, as well as the East African Community and its fellow regional economic communities. They will seek to align Africa’s existing programme of action with the Sendai Framework. Africa has been a pioneer, being the first re- gion to establish its own disaster risk reduction strategy, in 2004. That was a year before the adoption of the Hyogo Framework for Action, which was the globe’s most encompassing disaster risk reduction accord ever and guided a decade of efforts until it was succeeded by the Sendai Framework. Africa has 38 National Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction, a key instrument used around the world to understand and curb risk, and which were central to the Hyogo Framework. Countries have also come together regularly for Regional Platforms, the fifth African edition of which was held in May 2014 in Nigeria and created a common position to help craft the Sendai Framework. The Yaoundé meeting follows the 3rd Inter- national Conference on Financing For Development held in Addis Ababa, which saw the launch of a major project entitled Building Disaster Resilience to Natural Hazards in sub-Saharan African Regions, Countries and Communities. The five-year initiative, which benefits from 80 million euros of European Union funding, aims to create a solid evidence base for future disaster risk reduction financing. Knowing where disasters have occurred in the past, where people are exposed to hazards and having a record of the frequency of hazards equips all stakeholders to make risk-informed economic, policy and planning decisions. Disaster loss databases exist for many countries in the world, but Africa is underrepresented and under-reported. Understanding risk is the first step to re- ducing it. Risk-aware decisions are essential to build resilience, whether by investors, governments, communities or individuals, resulting in improved economic growth. The alternative is that disaster losses feed back into other outcomes such as deteriorating health and education, and worsening poverty, thereby heightening future risk. Ma≥ga≥eta Wahlst≥öm is the head of UNISDR, the UN O∞ce fo≥ Disaste≥ Risk Reduction, the focal point in the UN system fo≥ the coo≥dination of disaste≥ ≥eduction.
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