Refugees can't eat pledges

In a situation where more than 350,000 people have been evicted from their homes and forced to seek refuge in camps, a relatively well-off widow, hiving off 20 acres of the family land and donating it to the internally displaced to cultivate would, ordinarily, not cause major ripples.

But the gesture by Mrs Doris Nyambura is notable in more than one respect. First, she is the widow of JM Kariuki, the foremost egalitarian politician of his generation, and a man who was killed in 1975 for speaking on behalf of the dispossessed and the marginalised.

Thus, JM’s widow is carrying on a noble tradition of caring for impoverished people, by allowing them to cultivate a portion of the family land, where they can grow their own food, and thus keep themselves busy.

The second import of this gesture is the lesson it should hold for those who own more land than they need at any one time.

Politicians have on numerous occasions expressed commiseration with the displaced. They have reiterated, ad nauseum, what the Government intends to do to ease the plight of the refugees before finally resettling them.

Wouldn’t it be more logical for them to do something practical at an individual level? What is the use of paying lip service to helping the deprived when what they need most is assistance to reclaim their dignity as human beings?

The 20 acres offered by the JM family is a mere token. But at least 80 refugees can harvest their own food in the next two months. What if those landowners with thousands of acres of idle land did the same? There would be few internal refugees left in Kenya.

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