Breaking News!

Recently, the Fund for Peace, a US-based think tank, released their fifth annual Failed States List. Of course, it’s always fun to see where your home country ranks, and well, living in the developing world always makes the game that much more interesting. So here are some fun facts as to how this list relates to my current life:

  • The prestigious award of Most Failed goes to infamous Somalia (which sadly incorporates both Puntland and Somaliland), which comprises the north east border of my current home country. We supply them with the drug miira, they bring us guns, which initially got there from here. I am sure there is some sort of gun-commodity pyramid scheme going on here…
  • The number three most failing state, Sudan, comprises a section of our northern border. 16th on the list, Ethiopia, completes the rest of the northern border.
  • Kenya is the 14th most failed state in the world.
  • This puts Kenya in the top 10% of Failed States, woo woo.
  • Kenya fell from 26th to 14th in the span of a year. Fell is too mild a term. We dropped like a ton of bricks.
  • Ironically, Kenya (14th) and Nigeria (15th) are neighbors on the list, and are also considered some of the more successful sub-Saharan African states by conventional wisdom.
  • Kenya is failing more than North Korea. Wow, a phrase I never thought I would ever type…
  • Kenya is failing worse than Rwanda, which conventional wisdom might find confusing considering last decade Rwanda suffered complete societal collapse and its former leaders are facing charges of genocide. All we ever did was yell at Moi for being ridiculously corrupt and a little violent.
  • Kenya is also failing twice as bad as Liberia. Charles Taylor is allegedly a cannibal. We are failing worse than a country that was run by a cannibal!
  • Saving the best for last: Kenya is the most failing state with an active Peace Corps country program. I would like to thank my Guinean (country 9th on list) brethren for suspending their program last month in the name of political instability so that we could take top honors on this one. There’s gotta be some award or something for this? Some like, “Most Hardcore Volunteer,” or something. Or maybe we are the reason it’s failing so hard.

I would like to put some of this in perspective. Most importantly, Kenya failing so much, particularly taking into account its 12-point drop in a single year, combined with the fact that we supposedly have a free and democratically-elected government means that something really is NOT working. I don’t like capital letters for emphasis, but COME ON people, screw objectivity! Let’s sit down, we all know what is wrong here, so let’s FIX IT! What does it take to get people motivated to bring about the change they want? Of course the argument will also be, why should the Kenyan people judge their country’s progress by some Western metric if they are happy with how things are going. This brings up perspective-point number two.

Kenya is the recipient of some of the most development funding in the world. Sorry I do not have a nice website URL as a source for this statement, it’s simply gathered anecdotally from conversations with development professionals and organizations working in Kenya. So let me put a call out to everyone who donates money: ask yourself, is your money doing something? Can you get a direct feedback on how your money is impacting the country as a whole, or are you happy with potentially funding work that is not being actively supported by the government of the developing nation as well. Ultimately we all talk about sustainability. What would be more sustainable then a government stable enough to be doing the work development organizations now do?! That should be the goal people, but can we rightfully claim our work means something if we are not empowering people to ensure they have a sustainable government before everything else?

Short of revolution, which will never happen because as a Kenyan friend of mine said in response to the notion of protesting: “Kenyans don’t walk,” and I doubt there is a development organization that provides transport stipends for revolution-related activities, I just don’t know what to do anymore. Sorry this seems so pessimistic and I know it has come across as unnaturally emotional for this blog, but I look around at so much potential here that can literally go up in flames in 2012 (reference to next Kenyan election year, not a horrible Hollywood flick), and I just die inside. Of course, that’s nothing compared to those individuals who will die, just like their relatives and friends did in 2008, when Kenyans once again turn against one another.


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6 responses to “Breaking News!

  1. SeeNoEvil ( same person who posts regularly)

    Ah.. the wonderful things untethered aid brings..


  2. and I am glad you post regularly šŸ™‚

    and yes, untethered aid, helping the world go round. Westerners feel good about themselves, the UN feels like it’s actually doing something, and power-hungry warlords/dictators/politician are able to maintain a pathetic status quo.

    Yet none of this matters in the village, where we are still living like it’s 942 AD.

    (NOTE: broad statement above are inspired by emotion, not empirical evidence. Deal with it.)

  3. Jan

    A modest, and hopefully, sustainable project my son is trying to hatch (pardon the pun) in Mombasa through his internship with FSD: a small poultry farm to benefit Kwacha Afrika’s “Boys for Change” program. You can read a project description on his “blog” (a collection of his emails to family this fall) and make a donaation (no obligation!):

    If you have any experience with chickens, look Graham up. Maybe one day the project will merit its own website!

  4. I forgot to mention, Jan, that I ran into Graham and his other FSD friends in town the week of Halloween and invited them all over for the party. Though he was unable to make it, two of his friends did. I believe he said he has my number now.

    Don’t get me wrong when it comes to development, the project ideas are most certainly good and more and more are becoming sustainable. The trick however is that almost all of them could/would/should be paid for by the Kenyan government, and not you. Ultimately, Kenya has an unnecessarily large dependence on foreign money to fund socially supportive projects like Graham’s, when in reality, the Kenyan government has the funds to do this themselves.

    This is also not an argument of simply prioritizing either, like one might make when wondering why the US spends so much on the military, and only ~$400 million on the Peace Corps. Instead, before we make the argument of prioritizing, we need to stop having to leverage around 60% of a project’s budget to handle corruption at all levels (information based on USAID budget projections).

    I love all of these creative and inexpensive solutions to bring about sustainable social welfare in Kenya, and I am perfectly OK with there being a global exchange of these ideas (which is for another post). However, in the case of Kenya, there needs to be a serious reconsideration for how much of the money funding this development work is no-strings-attached development funding and how much comes from the Kenyan government. At some point, a people need to start developing themselves, and for Kenya, that point is now.

  5. Jan

    Glad to know you & Graham crossed paths.

    Agree U.S. priorities are seriously skewed. Good ol’ Al Gore appeared on SNL last night and let his calls for action on global warming be comic fodder. So many aspects of our developed world are simply unsustainable and interconnected. Energy & food.

    Interesting article in Sunday NYT magazine about ethics of investments in African agriculture for export to the Middle East. Mentions deal between Kenya and Qatari exchanging 100,000 acre land lease for building of new port (Mombasa?).

  6. Some say Mombasa will get a much needed overhaul, others say that the US and other foreign powers have interest in expanding the deep-sea capabilities of Lamu, which would go an destroy a UN World Heritage site in the name of pirate hunting and expanded US military presence in the Horn of Africa. Of course, there could also be plenty of other ideas in the works as well that nobody talks about. For all we know, Nairobi will dig a deep-sea canal all the way there from the Indian Ocean and finally bypass Mombasa like they have wanted to do for years, hahah!