The papers want more than 'gestures' from the president
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki's visit on Tuesday to drought-afflicted areas in the north receives scathing reviews in the country's press.
The most charitable comment comes in an editorial in Kenya's top-selling daily, the independent Nation, which welcomes Mr Kibaki's announcement of new boreholes in the North Eastern Province but calls for more to be done.
The president's promise "should not cloud the bigger problem, namely that many more people face starvation in other parts of the country", it says.
"The government must formulate a broad and long-term strategy of combating hunger," it adds.
A commentary in the same newspaper goes further, warning that disaster relief alone will not solve the underlying problems.
"Famine is a result of the country's lopsided agricultural and development priorities," the writer, Tom Kagwe, believes.
"Making food available for the farmers during famine, though welcome, is short-term and short-lived," he says.
"It is spontaneous and cannot provide long-term solutions to the country's perennial food shortage, which sometimes leads to death."
An editorial in the Times, which is published by the former ruling Kanu party, similarly believes that the country's food problems are systemic.
"Our development model has divided Kenya into viable and non-viable parts, thus skewing the disbursement of development," it declares.
"The system that turns Kenya into a bi-national tragedy is that which the regime wishes to sustain and which is why we shall have hunger and alms for the foreseeable future," it adds.
Too little, too late?
Another paper, the independent People Daily, accuses the government of doing too little, too late.
President Kibaki's visit "can be termed as a benevolent gesture", it concedes.
"But will it ease the agony of those who have lost their loved ones to the ravages of hunger or those who have lost their livestock?", it asks.
"The even bigger question", it continues, "is why the government should wait until people perish in order for it to get actively involved".
"It is hypocritical, at best, for the government to pretend that it was not aware that things had reached worrying proportions," it concludes.
Back in the Times, a writer agrees that the government should have acted much sooner and links the drought to the country's recent political upheavals.
In an article entitled "Famine reinforced feeling of betrayal", Mbothu Kamau accuses Kenya's politicians of having been "loudly and incessantly engaged in political wrangling and selfish power games" while "famine has been looming over the past several months".
"Ironically, the government was quite effective in the supply of relief food to the hunger-stricken areas prior to the November referendum on the proposed draft constitution," he continues.
"One wonders where the goodwill and the bottomless reservoir of supplies went after the government's resounding defeat at the referendum," he adds.
But the article concludes by suggesting that some good may come out of the drought if the country's politicians can rise above their differences.
"The current famine could perhaps be the bridge our leaders need to end the ethnic and political differences that were well pronounced during the last several months of wrangling, blackmail and back-stabbing," it says.
It calls on MPs from wealthier parts of the country to encourage their voters to donate food to the affected areas.
"Such a gesture would unify the leaders and their people and promote stability following the political divisions and polarity that threatened to tear the country apart before the vote," it believes.
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