Kakuma is the second largest refugee camp in Kenya after Dadaab which is on the border to Somalia. As in all large UN refugee camps, the UN assumes the role of the state providing inmates with basic necessities such food, water and medical supplies. But funding is running short. The aid the refugees receive ensures their survival but it is not enough to help them make a life for themselves outside the camp. Over time, the refugees become dependent on the aid from the international community. They live in limbo. The Turkana people are the responsibility of the Kenyan government, not the United Nations. As pastoralists, they depend on their livestock in order to survive. If their animals perish, they lose their livelihoods.
Emathe Namwar is the official in the government of Turkana County responsible for water supplies. He is critical of the central government in far away Nairobi. "There is no attempt at coordination. The national government does not involve us in the search for a solution. It could be that financial relief will be forthcoming, but if there is no coordination, then we will just expend a lot energy without achieving very much."
In Nairobi, Andrew Tuimur, principal secretary at the agricultural ministry, passes the buck to the Turkana local government.
Last week, the national government sent diesel generators to Turkana to supply electricity for water pumps driving bore holes. But there is no diesel fuel for the generators because the local government says it cannot afford it. The local government is running a fleet of 18 water trucks to keep the population supplied with drinking water. These trucks have a large diesel consumption, which is already a heavy financial burden. Some of them are kept off the road because fuel is so short. Turkana's roads are also in a deplorable state.
Emanthe Namwar from the local government believes the blame lies solely with the national government in Nairobi. "Why don't they do something. The government of Turkana is suffering from 50 years of neglect at the hands of the government in Nairobi, " he said.
Both local and national government officials have yet to explain why so little money flows into rural development, even though the international community is supplying aid for this very purpose. Climate change and drought are the external factors that cause food insecurity. But ignorance and corruption among the political class has left the country vulnerable to the horrendous consequences of drought. A very high price is being paid for the neglect of rural development by Africa's urban elites. In the Kenyan election campaign, government and opposition are accusing one another of incompetence and misuse of funds. They are not arguing over the ways or means by which sustainable development could be promoted in Turkana. The plight of a million Turkana pastoralists would appear far too insignificant politically to warrant any pledges of a better future. Kenya's political class is relying instead on the oil they hope will soon start flowing from the reserves which were discovered in Turkana in 2012.
As an African country, Kenya is not unique in this regard. Of some 40 countries worldwide that are dependent on food aid, just under 30 are in Africa.