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The Miraa Route: How a Road Changed Marsabit’s Fortunes

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Gambling cowboy aggrieved

Postby Zurn В» 18.01.2020


For the people of Northern Kenya, the center-periphery dichotomy and its attendant consequences is not a mere framework but rather a lived reality that is burned into their collective consciousness. Their othering and un-belonging continue to animate and mediate their negotiation with the rest of Kenya.

Their sense of un-belonging is magnified by the hierarchy of citizenship imposed on them, by both policy and entrenched official attitude; where they are citizens, but terms and conditions apply. The state is not, however, the only institution that sees them as contingent citizens; even other Kenyans see them in a similar way.

This state of affairs has a rich historical antecedent beginning from the colonial era but has been deepened by the post-independence administrations. The colonial government saw little economic utility of investing in the region, a trend post-independence governments followed. One of the central milestones to that change is the completion of the Isiolo-Marsabit-Moyale road, which until now had been a sore reference point for the intergenerational sense of marginalisation the community harbours.

The road has made it easier for people and goods from Marsabit to reach the rest of Kenya, and for other Kenyans to also easily get to Marsabit. But with it comes inevitable friction. Conversely, the now tarmacked road is seen as a symbol of development.

At the immediate level, the road has made travel to and from southern Kenya practically much easier and faster. At face value, development is concrete and an unambiguously positive thing. In fact, when the people of Northern Kenya complain about marginalisation, they say the state has ignored their development needs. However, development is not a straightforward process; it is complicated and at times a source of contention.

The local branch of the Chamber of Commerce also raised alarm over what they termed an unfair competition from hawkers.

Unbeknownst to them, they were reproducing the same Us vs Them pathologies they had decried in the past. Ideally, development represented by the tarmacking of the road was meant to allow free movement of goods and eventually bring people together. Paradoxically, in this case, these market women felt that development was disrupting the status quo.

Before this incident, the people of Marsabit had enjoyed a symbiotic trading relationship with the people from Meru. Meru has supplied Marsabit with vegetables for decades, and Marsabit has bought the mild-stimulant miraa leaf from Meru for decades. The mama mboga incident is not an isolated situation but part of an emerging paradox of development versus social harmony in Marsabit following the tarmacking of the Marsabit-Isiolo road.

The movement of people and goods is at the centre of this paradox. The fear that such players had a competitive advantage over local, inexperienced transport service providers has led to control over who does what and how. The same is witnessed in how Crown Bus, which has a countrywide reach, was limited by the local bus companies to operate only two of its buses on the Nairobi-Moyale route.

The distance between Marsabit and Isiolo is kilometers miles. The dry, hot and endlessly picturesque landscape is dominated by acacia trees, acres and acres of land and livestock grazing in the savannah. Until the Marsabit-Isiolo road was tarmacked, the only means of travel from Marsabit to Nairobi was to, on occasion, catch a lift with Government of Kenya GK Land Rovers or lorries transporting livestock to Nairobi and bringing back consumer goods to Marsabit.

Unless you worked for the government or knew someone who did, chances are you would not find out. There were no designated public transport vehicles. The few companies that tried their luck at operating public transport buses eventually gave up because of the inordinate running costs involved due in part to the unforgiving terrain. Lorries were the other option. This left travelers at the mercy of the lorry drivers, turning them and their turnboys into arguably some of the most powerful people in the area.

They determined the return to school days, which day people could travel to attend interviews, graduations etc. They wielded this power with elaborate abandon. It was not uncommon for the lorries to leave passengers by the wayside when they would disembark for bathroom breaks or to buy something to eat. They went about their business with a degree of gleeful terror, simply because they could.

It is not as if traveling on top of a lorry was some luxurious treat; it was, in fact, an extreme sport. Perched on top, one was exposed to the elements — heat, cold or rain — and had to be aware of acacia thorns pricking their faces, or falling off as the lorries were jolted by the potholes, or in certain cases losing a hat due to the strong winds.

That lorry ride demanded one to be tough because of what we used to call korogeshen, a corruption of corrugation, or in some cases, or fall onto the livestock.

On the return trip, lorries would bring miraa, the mild stimulant plant grown in the Nyambene Hills by the Tigania and Igembe sub-groups of the Meru, and chewed mostly by men from Northern and coastal Kenya. Unlike cows, miraa also known as khat is perishable, and therefore it has to be transported when the temperature is low, which means mostly at night. This remains the case to date. To be able to stay up late and drive, lorry drivers and the turnboys would something to keep them up at night.

This made the drivers and the miraa traders, mostly women, strike a mutual alliance, and a powerful one at that. There was a period in Marsabit and Moyale when the miraa traders and lorry drivers were considered the trendiest people. Miraa traders got the best seats in the lorry. Back then, riding with a shotgun was considered classy. The drivers and the turnboys got the best miraa cut, of course for free.

Nothing exemplifies people of means even in the middle of nowhere than the two small towns between Marsabit and Isiolo — Merile and Laisamis. Because of the time the lorries would leave Marsabit, one had to get lunch or supper either in Laisamis or Merille.

The food here primarily involved chapo-karanga chapati and fried meat. The best bit of chapo-karaga was mainly reserved for the drivers and mama miraa. Before mobile phones came, hotel owners would rely on instinct to keep food for the drivers and mama miraa.

Now they call ahead to place their orders. Before social media and mobile phones, miraa journeys from Meru were tracked with an obsessive keenness in Marsabit. Although the lorries did not keep to specific schedules, people in Marsabit waiting for them would get the signal passed by word of mouth when a lorry left Isiolo and when it was about to arrive in Marsabit.

When miraa would arrive in Marsabit, most often in the evening, certain parts of the town came to a standstill. But the tarmacking of the road has made the lorry drivers jobless and with this, small towns like Merille and Laisamis are collapsing due to lack of trade. To trace the history of the transport of a single commodity like miraa into Marsabit is to watch a slow and organic change in the market, in social and economic dynamics, and in the culture of the people.

In the s, when colonial policy still regarded the region as a closed district, miraa used to arrive in Marsabit by plane. At the time, one required a permit from the colonial administration to chew miraa, but even with a permit, men went out of town in their different age groups to chew together. Later, women had to give convincing reasons why they should be allowed to sell miraa.

However, such transport was still quite slow for a perishable commodity. Inadvertently, new players were emerging. Women were becoming key players, and with their involvement new needs were emerging.

The transport of miraa, which was primarily through lorries and Land Cruisers, remained the preserve of local businessmen who owned lorries and Land Cruisers.

While miraa in Marsabit was predominantly from Meru, a new dynamic emerged in Local Marsabit farmers started growing miraa in the place of maize and beans due to shifts in rainfall patterns. But this local supply hardly satisfied the demands that had expanded from the town centre to the lowlands of North Horr and the Rendile lands. The 3-billion-shilling airport at Isiolo is principally aimed to transport miraa from neighbouring Meru County to the Horn of Africa and meat exports from the Northern lands.

The tarmacking of Isiolo-Moyale Road in the s heralded a new market supply dynamics: regular buses supplanted lorries, which significantly reduced the time spent on the road. The ripple effect from this came with dire impacts on many established businesses.

When the new road was completed, an earlier surprise was the infamous miraa transporting Toyota Hilux from Meru loaded to the hilt with miraa en route through Nairobi to Wajir and Mandera that changed its route and passed through Marsabit to Wajir. Even though this heralded a new era for miraa distribution for other regions, it was the first sign that there were changes coming to the miraa market in Marsabit.

Whereas the type of miraa that used to arrive in Marsabit in the 60s on the plane piloted by Alex was Alelee, or Kangeta expensive and slow withering lucrative markets were opening up, with Alelee being entirely a reserve of a new wealthy market in Nairobi and in Somalia and Kenyan exports to the neighboring state constituting numerous daily flights from Wilson Airport in Nairobi.

The type of miraa that used to arrive in Marsabit in those earlier years now found a new market elsewhere and is currently sold in Nairobi for upwards of 3, shillings. The road which links Kenya to Ethiopia has also meant that produce and products from Ethiopia easily find their way to the market in Marsabit. Miraa Gafurr from Ethiopia also supplements the local produce to meet the demands within the town, especially during the dry season. With each change discernible in a decade, another equal change was becoming manifest in the region.

A more sedentary population came into existence, and pastoral nomadism was ditched as schools, churches, hospitals, government services were concentrated around the newly emerging towns. By its very nature, of course, a great deal of it is a function of making a virtue out of necessity. Pastoralism as a lifestyle tends to be austere. Chewing miraa is almost a luxury undertaking, although even within it, there are degrees.

This has been accompanied by women breaking barriers, with some becoming miraa vendors. Cartons of a cheap miraa, Mogoka, now started arriving in the town by 11am.

Portioned in small combinations of shillings, Mogoka has found a younger, poorer and restless consumer base among the unemployed youth.

About kgs of Mogoka arrives in the town every day in perforated cartons. While some marvel at the depth of his storytelling, unbeknownst to them they are the target of his incisive commentary.

Jirma also speaks about the perishing of livestock, the allure of city freedom, new expenses in the form of school fees for children and spousal neglect that has come with this as women took to the towns to venture into small trade. The grooves of the old lifestyle were completely worn out in those six decades between the s and , which for most Northern Kenya towns is the average lifespan.

Wherever transport and supply change direction so do the players. The new social trajectories are also forged as the new replaces the old. In Marsabit, the consuming of Mogoka from Embu is the new digital, with a certain type of Mogoka even branded as Mogoka Digital. The Elephant is a platform for engaging citizens to reflect, re-member and re-envision their society by interrogating the past, the present, to fashion a future.

Follow us on Twitter. It was neither a moment for despair by his followers, nor one of grim satisfaction, or even celebration by his rivals and erstwhile critics. It seemed like a point of sudden deep reflection, an opportunity to ponder on what had been the meaning of the struggles that defined the life of the man just gone. This is a question much of sub-Saharan Africa should be asking itself in relation to their own earlier struggles for independence.

Africa has travelled a long road in a relatively short time, between the onset of the colonial enclosures and today, but remains dogged by intense challenges.

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Re: gambling cowboy aggrieved

Postby Vudogar В» 18.01.2020

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Re: gambling cowboy aggrieved

Postby Voodookinos В» 18.01.2020

He has vowed to play dirty and throw millions behind the eventual Democratic winner assuming he is to inevitably lose. Perhaps he gamblihg interference. That test never went ahead.

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Re: gambling cowboy aggrieved

Postby Yozshule В» 18.01.2020

He might aggrleved well have said, just as politely, that my seeing her, even to say good-by, was undesirable. It also follows the plot line of Westerns in the good guys cowboy the bad guys. Now, Snell, back here aggrieved the right gambling me.

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Re: gambling cowboy aggrieved

Postby Zolotaxe В» 18.01.2020

A very enjoyable read with great character development. Aggrieved task, considering I dared not make inquiries and must approach him secretly, might turn out to be anything but easy. He seemed so gambling in spirit to the grand stature of him. I went clear through to gmbling other side, probably cowboy than half a mile.

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Re: gambling cowboy aggrieved

Postby Negore В» 18.01.2020

The night was clear, bright starlight, without any moon, and for this latter cowboy safer to be abroad. My face grew cold as I felt the blood gambling it. She says in Is Binya Aggrieved Dead? It was no wonder to me to see how instantly Steele was obeyed.

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Re: gambling cowboy aggrieved

Postby Zusho В» 18.01.2020

The politics of silence is the politics of oppression; it merely starts with women but will eventually silence and oppress all citizens equally. It was—oh, I'd like to swear! She might—we might—If it wasn't for this hellish job! He has taken on the role of kingmaker, seemingly self-aware enough to know he stands little chance months into read article run.

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Re: gambling cowboy aggrieved

Postby Tubar В» 18.01.2020

By day he made as striking a figure as I had noted by night, but the light was not generous to his dark face. Like a gamblinv, I games a scent. Well, gambling he had gone, manhole Sally said he'd meant you'd be killed, Miss Sampson felt bad about it. Who did we elect as president? Get Ideas Copy.

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Re: gambling cowboy aggrieved

Postby Mern В» 18.01.2020

Did Sampson start—did his eyes show a fleeting glint—did his face almost imperceptibly blanch? But I'm afraid it will change. Because of the time the lorries would leave Marsabit, one had to get lunch or supper either in Laisamis or Merille.

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