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Daily Nation : January 27th 2014
DAILY NATION Monday January 27, 2014 coverstory 3 MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION Twelve-year-old Fabiano Lewa, with his father, “Captain” Charles Guya, and his mother outside their manyatta. — I’m not sure I’m making sense to them — and that there are buildings that have more than 30 floors. From the looks that they give me, I realise that they cannot understand how that is possible. In my mind, I wonder how these “Yes. Apart from going to school, that is the farthest I have gone outside Loiyangalani. I am told Marsabit is a very beautiful town. I would really like to see it. I hear it has many cars. I am also told Nairobi is very beautiful. I saw it on the television in school during the Westgate siege. It looked like the towns I saw in a Jet Li (a Chinese actor) movie in one of the movie kiosks at our shopping centre,” he says. It is hard to believe that the farthest Fabiano has been is North Horr, a dusty town on the edge of the Chalbi Desert, and that apart from the lorries that transport goods and livestock and the Toyota Land Cruisers that those working in the area use thanks to their ability to tackle the rough terrain, he has not seen any other vehicle. ‘I would like to go to Nairobi and see the tall buildings for myself. I noticed that the roads are different from ours here. There are also very many cars and people,” he says. As we chat, several children join us come and join us on the bench on which we are sitting, and listen, awestruck, to the tales about Nairobi. My revelation that I live on the fourth floor of a five-storey building leaves them open-mouthed. They all stare at me in amazement, unable to imagine that a building can be that tall! “How come you don’t fall? And how do you get up there?” Fabiano asks, as the other children await my explanation as to how I live in the “sky”. I struggle to explain that such buildings have staircases and lifts children are expected to compete with their peers doing the same primary school system when they live in a completely different world. “What did you have for lunch?” I ask Fabiono as I share a packet biscuits I had brought along for the journey. “Today, we had nothing. Here, we sometimes go for days without food. That is why I love school. There, I have three meals a day and sometimes even eat foods that are not available outhere. At school I eat rice, beans and other delicacies. But our staple food is fish, 275 Length in kilometres of the rough road that cuts through South Horr to Loiyangalani so that is what we will have tonight,” he responds with a smile. Fabiano says his favorite food so far is chapati, which he has eaten countable times in his life. “I went to Halima’s kiosk in town and bought some chapati. It was delicious. But I am told chips are also delicious. I have never eaten chips and that is one food that I would like to taste,” he says. “So what are your dreams?” “I would like to be the first El Molo doctor so that I can uplift my community. We depend on this lake for everything: food and water. Whenever I come home for the weekend, I go fishing with my father. We have been told that the water and fish make us suffer from certain diseases. As you can see, some of my cousins here have discoloured hair and we were told it is because of the food we eat,” he explained. Promise Fabiano made me promise that I would take him to Nairobi if he passed his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). “I know I will perform well. When the results are out, I ask my cousin who has a phone to call you so that you can fulfill your promise. I would also like to see the city that everyone in this village keeps talking big about,” he says. As we continue chatting, now taking a stroll, while taking a walk, we pass by an El Molo girl removing dust from an elderly woman by blowing on her. We also stop to take a photo with his parents before he disappears into the manyatta and emerges seconds later, carrying an exercise book. “Write down your mobile number for me. I will tell my cousin to lend me his phone so that I can call you. My older brother’s line was de-activated because he couldn’t register it,” he explains. I scribble down the number, fold the piece of paper and hand it to him. He smiles and says we are now friends. In the open field, Fabiano’s cousins and other small children are playing in the hot sun. Some are wearing clothes while others are naked. They have no toys, so they make do with water bottles and soil. It’s a simple life. As we part, “Captain” Guya says something that baffles me. “When you go to Kenya, say hi to your people,” he whispers before I bid them farewell. Fabiano’s story is a grim reminder of the challenges many children in Northern Kenya face, and brings out the disparity in the allocation of resources in the country. A trip to El Molo village in Loiyangalani is not for the fainthearted. It takes a minimum of 15 hours from Nairobi, and covers more than 270 kilometres of rough, rocky terrain. tribes, the El Molo number about 700. A striking feature is the colour of the children’s hair and teeth; they are brown. The community suffers from bone and teeth deformation caused by consumption of the highly saline water from Lake Turkana. The high fluoride intake is to blame for the discolouration of the teeth and poor bone formation. And their protein-rich diet,which is rarely supplemented with carbohydrates, is unbalanced. Walking around the village, One of Kenya’s smallest one can see the disparity between the resources here compared with other parts of the country. Apart from the scorching sun, people in this community have to contend with poor educational waterborne diseases, famine and inadequate medical facilities, among others. The El Molo live in a big village made up of small manyattas. The manyattas are simple, circular structures made using palm fronds harvested from the lake. The fronds on the walls are held together by thin strips of wood. The manyattas are not coated with cowdung, as is the trend in most rural areas, perhaps because the El Molo do not keep livestock. This could also be the reason they are never targets for cattle rustlers like their neighbours, the Turkana and Samburu. When walking around, the men usually carry a two-legged stool, which serves as a mobile seat. They also wear shukas while the women wear colourful necklaces and bracelets. The women spend most of their time indoors but when tourists arrive, they organise an impromptu open-air market, where they sell their wares to them. Killing a hippo bestows great About The El Molo facilities, honour on an individual. Whoever kills a hippo is decorated with a necklace made from the hippo’s teeth, and a feast is held for the whole community. Fabiano’s father, “Captain” Charles Guya, has such a necklace. The El Molo have a shrines that comprise four huts: Marie, Orikala, Origaltite and Orisole. The clan heads maintain the shrines from time to time and also pray there to their supreme being, Wak.
January 26th 2014
January 28th 2014