In Summary

  • The rituals around food are among the handful that still totally defy the colonial borders.
  • One of the intriguing aspects of this food story has been its regional ramifications.
  • You really don’t want to defeat the incumbent on the promise that the cost of tomatoes, flour, and vegetables will be cheaper as soon as you are sworn in.

Food: Its recent soaring price, and shortage had become a hot political and social potato in Kenya.

There was even commentary that if the prices, especially of unga, didn’t come down, it could cost President Uhuru Kenyatta a few votes come the August 8 elections.

However, the corollary was also politically risky: As an opposition, you really don’t want to defeat the incumbent on the promise that the cost of tomatoes, flour, and vegetables will be cheaper as soon as you are sworn in.

It might not happen, and you would have voters angry with you during what should be your political honeymoon.

One of the intriguing aspects of this food story has been its regional ramifications.

FLOODING UGANDA

There are reports of Kenyans “flooding” Uganda and Tanzania to buy food.

One story even spoke of Kenyans “invading” Uganda for food.

Coming from near the Uganda-Kenya border, the idea of an “invasion” is laughable.

It can only come from people who are not border folks.

There are many reasons why people marry across the borderline.

ECONOMIC INSURANCE

One of them is political and economic insurance.

In the 1970s and early 1980s when Uganda was in turmoil, some Ugandan men married across the border and set up homes in Kenya where the economy was working.

After President Yoweri Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) took power in 1986, Uganda was on the up, and Kenya this time was in the doghouse.

The opposite happened. Several border Kenyans moved their family operations to the Ugandan side.

To this day, shrewd polygamists still have homes – and gardens and keep domestic animals – on both sides of the border.

FALLING OFF BICYCLES

When I was a little boy still falling off bicycles, I remember distinctly relatives from the Kenyan side coming to our grandparents’ home to “collect food because there was hunger [kech] in Kenya”. And when there was “kech” on the Ugandan side, a visit across would yield several sacks of food.

We were too young to be interested or to comprehend what was going on then. Later we did.

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