BY JAMES WAORE DIANG’A

According to the Bible, the land of Canaan was the promised land which God gave to Abraham and his descendants. In the biblical narrative, Canaan was the “promised land” given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants by God after Abraham responded to God’s call and migrated with his family from Haran. Although it was already inhabited by the Canaanites, God instructed Moses, Joshua, and the Israelites to drive out its inhabitants and take the land as their own possession. The term Canaan land is also used as a metaphor for any land of promise or spiritual state of liberation from oppression. Moses‘ journey from Egypt to the promised land of Canaan thus symbolizes a people’s journey from oppression to freedom, from sin to grace, from want to satiety – milk and honey.

When I returned to Kenya in 2002 I found quite a number of my community members preparing to leave for “Cannan” – from the old post colonial constitution to a new dispensation. In my own opinion, I eventually, came to equate “Cannan” more to Kenya’s Vision 2030: the national long-term development policy aimed at transforming the nation into a middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens in a clean and secure environment. The Vision comprises of three key pillars: Economic, Social and Political. With support from development conscious individuals, I had already registered an NGO, Kisumu Youth Olympic Centre (KYOC). Looking back today I am proud that my idea has enabled us, in KYOC, to contribute to the social and economic development of our country, Kenya, and by extension Vision 2030. In KYOC our contribution focused mainly on education, sports and welfare. In education, over 30 children have so far gone beyond Form 4 education. Whereas five among them are university graduates, some are in the police service, military, prison, hospitality and teaching profession etc. In sports: when watching Harambee Stars/starlets, Gor Mahia, Tusker, Western Stima, Nzoia, Agrochemicals, Chemelil, Palos FCs perform, you will be surprised that one of the outstanding talented player before you is a product of KYOC. Interesting to note is that the Most Valuable Player of the year 2016, who was awarded Kes 1.6m, was natured at KYOC. Since 2009, 4 youth football teams (totaling to 75 players and officials) have left Kisumu and participated in the Youth World Cup, Gothia Cup in Gothenburg-Sweden on sponsorship of Kes 5 million per trip. We, in KYOC have done this with the understanding that I do my bit, you do yours and together we contribute to the achievement of Kenya Vision 2030.

It was not until prior to 2013 elections it occurred to me that, a considerable number of Luo community members claiming to be marching to “Cannan” were actually talking of a different Cannan. Today I can say without doubt that due to cultic following, ignorance and poverty, majority of the community members are left behind in the endeavor to either reach Cannan or contribute to the achievement of Vision 2030.

I believe that were the call to march to “Cannan” genuine and serious Counties under ODM governorship (lead by Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay and Migori, among others) would have lead by examples: transparency, zero corruption, no clanism/nepotism but instead recruitment of county employees are done on merit (professionalism and skills). The counties should also have had considerable investment in development projects.

Without fear of contradiction, I can say that successive governments from 2002: (Kibaki, Kibaki/Raila and Uhuru) have put in place environment conducive to economic development for Kenya. With this last sentence, let’s bring Kisumu, as part of Luo Nyanza, into focus:

Lake Victoria offers opportunity to do cage fish farming. If encouraged and given support the local residents can engage in massive fish farming with a short term benefits of supplying the ever rising city market demand and along term aim of supplying a local fish industry with raw material. This will create hundreds of thousands of employment opportunities in the region. The Kibaki administration encouraged this but the local residents failed to yield to the idea. Kerugoya, in Central province, grasped the idea and is today supplying the Kisumu market with fish. For trade in the lake, I have ever dreamt of watching modern cargo and passenger boats bearing the names of the investors: “Kisumu Pacho”, “Siaya Kababa”, “Homa Bay”, “Migori” and even “Migingo” sailing the waters of Lake Victoria in business endeavors to countries of Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo. Prior to 2002 elections the local political elite campaigned on the platform of building a road around the shores of the lake and with refrigerators to store fish and easy the trade. This idea was dropped immediately the Rainbow Coalition government was formed as the area political elites instead came up with, as a matter of priority, lists of their relatives and friends to be appointed on government plum jobs.

Breweries: According to reports gathered during my campaign, instead of seeking for funds to hire the large tracks of idle arable lands in the region to sow sorghum and supply the industry with the raw material some among the Luo middle class have resorted to taking bank loans to bury relatives. I came also to confirm that 2/3 of the salary of a Luo in the middle class category goes to charity – in supporting extended family members and other relatives. By supporting the idea of having Breweries investment in Kisumu, the Jubilee administration has shown the will to encourage economic development in the region. If embraced, the investment will help create hundreds of thousands of job opportunities and will have multiple effects on the region’s economy.

The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR): I have heard of a story being told about an Israeli soldier (Reuben) who decided to settle in Kenya immediately after WWII. With his retirement benefits, Reuben came to Nairobi and bought a mule which he stationed at the front of the Central Railway station. Pulling a cart, the mule was used in transporting luggage for railway commuters. It was from this simple mule/cart business investment that a multimillion company: East African Express emerged. I also read in one of our local newspapers that there are some 50 millionaires living in Nairobi whose main trade is mkokoteni (cart) transport services.

The SGR investment is another proof that the Kenyatta administration has the will to economic well being of the people of Luo Nyanza. Are our people organizing themselves to benefit from this multimillion investment opportunity?

During Obama’s presidency in the US, the region’s political leadership failed to negotiate, with that administration on investment in textile industry. The Americans could invest in the production technology and Kenya could pay back with export of textile to the US war industry. Again, instead the local political elite went for opportunities that would only benefit the individual and immediate family members and close relatives.

The International airport: This lucky investment, which is currently lying unexploited, will boost, among others, trade in fish, textile and horticultural products to neighboring regions and the rest of the international community. During my political campaign (to be an MP for Kisumu Central constituency on Jubilee party ticket) I, therefore, took the opportunity and talked to voters about the above listed investment opportunities and many more including supply of demanded goods to the city market.

Let me close this article by reminding the reader that when I was tried by court martial and jailed in 1981 it was not because I was poor, hopeless and a criminal. I was a serviceman in the military on salary, good food and quality wine. But I sacrificed that comfort and became the first Kenyan Air Force officer to be court-martialed within the KAF barrack. I also became the first Kenyan political prisoner in Daniel arap Moi’s regime. This was a struggle against dictatorship and for a multi party democratic system. When I escaped to exile in 1986, I was running away from persecution. I ended up in Sweden, one among the five Scandinavian countries which by then was being referred to as: “Paradise on Planet Earth”. I stayed in Sweden for 18 years, during which, I spent most of my time studying. Sweden is a welfare state where parents are entitled to child allowance until the child attains 18 years. An adult is entitled to house allowance and labor allowance when in need. All these, including education, are financed from taxes. The Swedish welfare state system functions: It is reliable. It is predictable.

It was out of my pride for our country, Kenya that I sacrificed my employment in the military. It was out of pride for my country Kenya that, in November 2002 I left “Paradise on Earth” and – with it my employment – and returned to Kenya to be party to the ideas that will propel Kenya into peace and prosperity.

Just from the few opportunities listed above, we can say that Kisumu and Luo Nyanza has enough resources, that if well managed, can drastically improve the living standard of the local residents, and by extension Kenya. If done, the region will be part of the Cannan we are being promised to settle on. For me there is no any Cannan other than where we live here, now in time and space! It is only through: planning, mobilizing, organizing, hard working and sweating that we shall be able to create our own “Cannan”. No more, no less! But does the crop of current elected and selected political leadership in the region have the knowledge or the will to facilitate the dream?

JAMES WAS THE KISUMU CENTRAL MP CANDIDATE IN 2017