By Andrew Ross
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday launched a $59.1 million equalization fund meant to aid in the development of nomadic pastoralist counties in the country’s Arid and Semi-Arid (ASAL) regions.
Kenyatta launched the equalization fund when he met with leaders of pastoralist communities from 14 out of Kenya’s 47 counties.
“Everybody here has eagerly awaited the inception of this fund. Today marks the end of our wait. As we launch this fund, the culmination of several years’ hard work, I could not be prouder to see it become operational,” he said.
“Six billion Kenyan shillings have been allocated to it for the 2015-2016 fiscal year,” added the president.
Kenyatta added that with proper coordination and administration, the fund will spark a wave of public investments that will hasten development in the 14 counties, and bring greater equity to the process of national development.
“With the money now available, I urge local leadership to immediately begin leveraging the funds to cater to basic community needs in your respective counties and create meaningful change for your constituents,” Kenyatta said.
Pastoralist communities in Kenya have been living in almost constant tension since the 1990s. Cattle rustling has been the norm for these communities, which are mostly poor and located in the country’s northern region.
Last May, 75 people were killed in Northern Kenyan cattle raids between the Turkana and Pokot communities. Last December the Red Cross said that over 250 houses had been razed and over 5,000 displaced after fighting broke out between two pastoralist communities.
Kenyatta urged the leaders to work together to ensure security prevails in their areas.
“There are some young people who have been lured into violence and extremism,” he said. “I ask you to join me and my government in protecting the lives and property of Kenyans. We are all in this together, and we will win this war only if we stand together”.
Kenyatta also said that over 400 vehicles and 4,000 police officers have been deployed to the ASAL areas to rapidly deal with security threats and curb criminal activity.