Flattening Both Curves: Covid 19 Vs Structural Violence…
A Pastoralists Perspective
Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a justifiable sense of unprecedented urgency and emergency in the mobilization of Global resources towards human safety. Yet, the sense of urgency with which we are engaging with the immediacy of the Covid-19 pandemic can obscure the endemic social vulnerability occasioned by unpeaceful, unjust, and weak institutions at the Global, state and local levels.
For a long time, the global family had assumed a pseudo-immunity towards structural violence and unjust structures as proposed in SDG 16. Yet Covid -19 has now made it clear that there is a strong correlation between SDG 16, Covid-19 [SDG 3], and food security [SDG 2]. It is not just about the numbers 16,19, 2, and 3; it is rather, about people, the human family who are simultaneous, co-present as dignified global and local citizens (Glocal citizens). There, therefore, is a need for both a nexus and nested thinking in our efforts to flatten the curves of both the Covid-19 and structural Violence.
Just like the wet markets in Wuhan have had a devastating impact on the stock markets in New York, so can the cow-markets in Ngaremara Mission in Isiolo, in Kenya have a debilitating and spiraling impact on the global stock markets. I am not trying to draw a false equivalence between a wet market scenario in Human and Ngaremara’s mission in Kenya. All I am laboring to underscore is the urgency of treating the vulnerable pastoralists communities in the far-off peripheries of Ngaremara in Isiolo- Kenya, with the same dignity and as equitably as the ceos of NY and London stock markets.
This may look abnormal at first sight, but abnormality both as a concept and a thinking process is what Covid-19 has now transformed into the New Normal. Covid-19, the ultimate equalizer, has revealed yet again that Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the UK, and our Catechist in Ngaremara Mission mama Francisca Mpayani are after all simply human and vulnerable in multiple ways. The most sustainable way of equally safeguarding their wellbeing; their economic, geographical, and status differentials notwithstanding, is by collaborating in a sustained, purposeful and strategic reconstruction of the weak and unjust institutions and structures proper to their contexts.
Meanwhile, the pastoralists communities in Isiolo are still trying to grapple with the new reality that has been brought into their Manyattas [traditional mud huts] and grazing zones courtesy of Covid-19. The people who have for a long time longed to see the government’s institutional presence through service delivery, are now seeing them crisscrossing their inaccessible roads. They are struggling to understand why the government is interfering with the only capital that they are left with- that is, the social capital by insisting on social distancing. They don’t understand why the rest of the country is bitterly complaining about ‘isolation’ while they, for a long time, have been silently living in economic and developmental isolation. They marvel at how the government can quickly establish a robust Rapid Response team to identify, trace and track potential Coronavirus contacts, yet they have struggled to identify, trace and track the source of both structural and protracted violence in their midst. The urban middle-class families who they had for a long time looked up to as ‘bringers of development’, are now seen as ‘bringers of Coronavirus’ and a cohort to be avoided. Yet, the urban dwellers are also the ‘bringers of food’ which means that, again, the pastoralists are vulnerable to hunger and food insecurity.
We cannot but refocus on the building strong peace infrastructures. This will include just and strong institutions. We, as a glocal citizenry, must realize that we are as vulnerable and dispensable as the vulnerable demographies within and around us. For durable peace, both curves must be flattened.
Robert Omondi cmf