The news of a middle aged man from Tharaka Nithi County, being arrested for consuming dog meat has blown off the lid to a can of worms into the level of hypocrisy among the county leaders, who have dishonestly portrayed their region as suffering no food deficiency.
Going by reports by the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), Tharaka Nithi is nowhere near counties mostly affected by food crisis.
According to the agency, the most affected counties are Turkana, Mandera, Baringo, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit and Tana River. Others are Kitui, Makueni, Kilifi, Meru North and Isiolo.
Tharaka Nithi is not among these counties but Martin Munene, from the county who was arrested at his home in Karimba village, Magundu location in Muthambi ward for slaughtering a dog for consumption attributed the action to biting hunger.
“I have no source of income and there is a lot hunger. I did not intend to feed on the dog for the sake, I haven’t had a meal since the day before yesterday. I therefore decided to slaughter this dog to use it for food for the next three days,” Munene said in defense.
Although it is not clear yet, what law Munene would have been charged with, the question that crops up is whether he should have been subjected to a legal process for saving himself and his aged mother from the pangs of hunger.
Luckily for him, the Director of Public Prosecution directed that he be released and the County Criminal Investigations Officer (CCIO) to liaise with the County Commissioner to provide him with adequate relief food.
“The DPP, Noordin Haji has directed for immediate release of man arrested for slaughtering and cooking a dog for lack of food at Tharaka Nithi County. He further directed county CCIO to liaise with County Commissioner to provide man with adequate food,” a tweet from the DPP’s office said on Thursday evening.
Following the tweet, Munene benefited with 3 cabbages, 8kgs of maize flour, cooking fat, onions and potatoes worth Sh.1, 000 through the office of the County Commissioner. Whether this comprises adequate relief food is a question for another day but on receiving the foodstuffs, Munene was grateful to whoever intervened wondering what could have happened to his elderly mother if he had been jailed.
“I thank whoever got me released. It is by the mercy of God that I am free. I couldn’t imagine how mum could survive without me!” he exclaimed happily.
“Munene hasn’t gotten any job for a couple of months. His mother depends on him for food since she is elderly and sickly,” explained a neighbour who sought anonymity.
The Karimba Assistant Chief, Fabian Nkonge, who had accompanied Maara Deputy County Commissioner (DCC), Joseph Wambua to give food to Munene, asked residents to avoid doing such things and instead ask for food from government officials. He warned Munene not to try it again.
“No one should slaughter either a dog or any other animal of that kind because of hunger. Call the government and we shall hear your cry,” he said.
One can blush off the case of Munene as an isolated incident of laziness if it is not for the cries of the neighbours who were present during his arrest and Tharaka residents cry that they are likely to lose much of their livestock to the prevailing drought.
A number of villagers came to the defense of Munene, arguing that drought has adversely affected the area and that the government needed to take mitigation measures.
The residents also urged the county government to collaborate with the National government to avail irrigation water to the residents as a long term solution.
“The government should consider us and avail relief food as well as irrigation water to this area so that we are able to produce food for ourselves,” said one of the residents.
According to residents of Tharaka constituency, if the drought being experienced in the area persists and the number of dry rivers in the region continue to increase, the effects will be devastating unless the government takes immediate action to save them.
Locals who KNA found fetching water from wells dug in river Thanantu in Gatunga, Tharaka North Sub-County said their animals are dying due to lack of water since most rivers have dried up leaving only sand and dry stones. Residents walk for over 30 kilometers to Tana River that is always infested with crocodiles for water.
Peter Kimathi, a resident of Nkiruuni, said 14 rivers, 7 of which in the past had been considered permanent and the rest comprising of streams and seasonal rivers dried up after the long rains stopped. He said they have no option other than moving to Tana River that is 30 kilometers away to water their livestock. They are also required to pay Sh.100 to ferry water with bodaboda from river Kathita in Marimanti ward that is also drying up.
“Apart from river Kathita in Marimanti all other rivers have dried up. We have to pay for boda-bodas to ferry water from Kathita River in Marimanti while our livestock are taken to River Tana which is far and dangerous due to crocodiles,” said Kimathi.
Paul Mutiiria, a residents who KNA found fetching water from a hole he had personally dug on the dry river-bend of River Thanantu said Tharaka Nithi County government had drilled boreholes but most of them had dried up.
“The county government had drilled a few boreholes in our constituency but most of them have dried up. Although we have heard that they purchased Sh. 50 million worth of water drilling equipment we are yet to see them,” he further disclosed.
During a workshop on Climate Change held in Chuka town this week, the Tharaka Nithi County Government undertook to take measures to curb the negative effects of climate change that is sweeping across the country.
The County Chief Officer for Environment and Natural Resources, Gatiiria Njagi noted that in most cases the rivers are drying because of ignorance due to lack of civic education and more so their tendency to plant eucalyptus trees that have a high affinity for water along river banks.
“We will support our people with proper tree seedlings to plant in the coming rainy season and will also take action against those who have planted eucalyptus trees along river banks, because this is the cause for many streams and rivers drying up and lack of water in the lower sides of our county,” stressed Ms. Njagi.
Whereas, the intended measures by the county government if actually effected may be a long-term solution to lack of water in the lower sides of the county, which is actually Tharaka constituency, a short term remedy is urgently required to save the lives of people and livestock.
Burying our heads in the sand and pretending all is well simply because NDMA has not categorized the county as seriously affected by the prevailing drought could lead people dong worse things than Munene to save their lives.
By David Mutwiri