I wanted to start this post with an inspirational quote. So, I googled “quotes on Natural Disasters “ I came across several inspirational quotes but nothing quite stood out. Nothing was in line with what I had in mind; they were a tad bit too inspirational.

Seriously though, when I sat down to write this piece I had no clear sight of the finish line because, I love the ASALS but my experience had me shook – millennial for shocked.

Because, I had a dream – No, you cannot read that in your Martin Luther King voice.

I had finally landed in one of the ASAL regions! After almost five hours we are in Marsabit at The Cradle of Mankind –they call it. It was a long flight. I was in an air Taxi.

In my dream, we were on a seaplane and we landed a bit late. The guys who wait for you at the dock to pick you up and ferry you to the land had left we were alone. We had to figure out a way to get safely to the land where we would then have to travel another 2 Kms to the hotel.

It was raining heavily. We had to get to the land and fast. I looked around and all I could see was a large endless mass of water. I remember wondering if we really were in Marsabit. I tried to jump into the water and almost drowned, I couldn’t swim. It was scary, I was cold I was hungry. I know you are probably thinking I watch too many movies but stay with me.

All I needed to do was get to the land. None of us aboard the small seaplane knew what to do. So eventually after several failed attempts to save ourselves, we sat and waited. After what felt like two days but what was actually ten hours of numbness,  oneof the guys came back and ferried us one by one.

The land was covered in white stuff that looked like salt a residue of the flooding that had engulfed the lands. At some point we had to walk. The cars were not allowed past a certain point.  We passed by dead bodies, dead animals. What had happened here? There was no sight of life, all that was left was the smell of death and abandoned manyattas

There was no longer the common sound of Land Cruisers or sight of children running around. No sight of expatriates or fellow colleagues. Everyone had fled.  All this happened because the relief projects had come to an end.

I woke up!

This past year I travelled to The ASALs during the two worst natural disasters experienced in the region. First through the drought season, which was marked the worst drought ever experienced and secondly during the rainy season. Flash floods were the order of the day.

From where most people sit, the ASAls are a place far off!  A distant land, a place filled with dusty roads and clustered huts.  A place that has few – to no – tarmacked roads, a place of conflict and terrorism.

Yes the ASALs have scars, Battle scars; clan wars that ended badly, Poverty scars: that have left thousands dead and others reeling form the after effects, scars of diseases plaguing them left right and center. Thing about scars is that they are a sign of victory, because the people here have taken matters into their own hands and decided enough is enough.

I smelt the victory and I loved it.

I saw women who have been empowered and now run their own businesses and can provide for their families, I saw men who have now come out of their comfort zone and are able to share responsibilities with their wives. I saw young boys and girls who can now go to school.  I saw young men who a rising up and enlightening their community members.

Yes victory has a smell. This, this is it.

My dream may have spelt doom because in the midst of this victory. I fear that this may be short lived, that the powers at bay may not be ready for the independence and the growth that the people are experiencing. I believe that the time has come for the people to be recognized as part of us and not they, a people that really don’t need assistance but empowerment a people that can do this on their own.

I believe that poverty, death and disease will be a thing of the past and that we will be exploring ways to make Chalbi desert a destination for our desert safaris. I believe that a time is coming when we will be having fully booked rooms at the shores of Lake Turkana, when fish from the same lake will be supplied in large quantities. A time when Wajir and Mandera will be booming with Agri – business because it is possible!

I googled again, this time, I came across this; While natural disasters capture headlines and national attention short-term, the work of recovery and rebuilding is long-term.” – Sylvia Mathew Burwell

I believe that in a short while, the rebuilding process that has already began will be complete and soon you too will smell the Victory, and yes…I HAVE A DREAM – You can now read that in your Martin Luther King voice.

Wanjiru Kimuya

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