The escalating drought in many parts of Kenya, industrial strikes and the Aug. 8 presidential polls will be litmus tests for the East African nation’s ability to remain stable and economically vibrant.

Experts say Kenya is facing monumental challenges this year that may imperil its economic growth, cohesion and political stability.

Patrick Maluki, an international relations scholar at the University of Nairobi, said industrial strikes by doctors and university lecturers, drought and heated campaigns ahead of August polls are issues of major concern that should be handled well.

“The industrial strike by doctors and the university staff is already hurting delivery of critical services in the country. They present new hurdles in our country’s quest to become an oasis of stability and economic progress,” said Maluki.

He added the escalating drought could fuel new resource-based conflicts in arid and semi-arid regions.

Kenya’s health and education sectors are currently grappling with a paralysis occasioned by work boycott by doctors and university lecturers over pay.

The country’s 5,000 medics working in public hospitals downed tools on December 5, 2016 citing the state’s failure to implement a 300-percent salary hike signed with the ministry of health in June 2013.

Negotiations between the ministry of health and doctors’ unions to end the strike that entered its 50th day on Wednesday are yet to bear fruit.

Low-income Kenyans who seek healthcare services in public hospitals have borne the brunt of the strike.

Health Minister Cleopa Mailu said in a statement on Tuesday the government is committed to a speedy end to the doctors’ strike to ease suffering of ordinary citizens.

To make the situation worse, teaching and non-teaching staff in 33 public universities on Jan. 19 went on strike, also demanding a salary increase.

The strike by university lecturers and subordinate workers has triggered new paralysis in Kenya’s education sector that had been earmarked for major reforms.

Maluki said that an end to the industrial strikes in education and health sectors is urgent to breathe fresh air in Kenya’s economy.

The East African nation has since mid-December struggled with a biting drought that has affected an estimated 1.5 million people in 15 counties.

The drought has worsened food and water insecurity in some parts of the coast, upper eastern and Rift valley region.

In the capital Nairobi, a water rationing program was rolled out on Jan. 1 due to declining water levels in main reservoirs occasioned by the current dry spell.

Media reports recently indicated that low-income families in Nairobi are spending colossal amount of money to purchase water from unlicensed vendors.

President Uhuru Kenyatta last week said the government had set aside funds to provide emergency food aid and water to populations affected by drought.

Kenya will also navigate a tricky electioneering period later this year that will have far-reaching implications beyond the country’s borders.

Nevertheless, experts downplayed eruption of crisis as Kenya undertakes a political transition in August.

“I am optimistic there will be peaceful transfer of power and the likelihood of post-election chaos that we experienced in 2007-08 is remote,” said Maluki.

He however expected the elections for the president, lawmakers, governors and ward representatives to be highly competitive.

Bethwel Kinuthia, a Nairobi-based economist, stressed that Kenya’s economy has proved to be resilient enough to withstand external shocks.

“While the growth projections for this year may not be so rosy due to a host of negative forces, our economy will still have the capacity to absorb these shocks thanks to conducive policy and regulatory environment,” said Kinuthia.

He added that prudent management of the electoral process will underpin Kenya’s future stability and prosperity. Enditem

Source: Christine Lagat, Xinhua/


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