KENYA: Jobs Another Casualty in Post-Election Violence
Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
|More than 800 people have been killed and 250,000 displaced in the Kenyan post-election turmoil|
NAIROBI, 31 January 2008 (IRIN) – George Kose, 30, a graduate of Moi University, Eldoret, lost his job at one of the leading firms in Nairobi just days after the election results were announced on 30 December 2007.
“I could not get to work on time from Kajiado [about 100km south of the capital] on 2 January as there was a transport problem due to the skirmishes that were being experienced in the city; my supervisor issued me with a stern warning about my lateness,” Kose said.
“With the transport problem persisting for the next two days I ended up being late again. I was then fired, despite my explanations,” he said. “I think my supervisor was just looking for a reason to fire me as we did not get along well. There wasn’t much for me to do but leave; your employer has the final word.”
|As the first-born in my family, I was the breadwinner but now I’ve almost been rendered useless|
Kose, who had worked at the company for more than a year, earning about 30,000 shillings [US$428] per month], regrets not being in a position to provide for his parents and siblings in Kajiado.
“As the first-born in my family, I was the breadwinner but now I’ve almost been rendered useless,” he said. To keep busy, Kose has been volunteering as an HIV/AIDS peer counsellor in his home town.
“I hope to get another job soon as I’ve been busy giving out my CV to potential employers,” he said. In the meantime, Kose, who is neither an ethnic Kikuyu, Kalenjin nor Luo, the main groups at the centre of the conflict, has joined thousands of Kenyans who have become jobless due to the prevailing insecurity in the country.
Tourism badly hit
Most sectors of the economy have been affected due to insecurity and transport disruptions. The tourism sector has been badly hit, leading to massive job losses.
John (not his real name), a former hotel employee in Kilifi, at the coast, along with about 200 of his colleagues, has been jobless for the past month. As a casual labourer, he was laid off due to low bed occupancy at the hotel where he used to work.
The father of two said his main concern was providing for his family and dependants. Besides his wife and two children, he looks after three other people. “At least the children, who are in primary school, are not paying school fees,” he said.
Photo: Anthony Morland/IRIN
|Kenya’s tourism sector has been severely affected by the post-election violence|
John used to earn 7,000 shillings ($100) a month as a casual labourer. “Right now there is nothing for me to do but just wait and see what will happen in the country,” he said.
At least 120,000 people are expected to lose their jobs in the tourism sector, according to a spokeswoman for the Kenya Tourism Board, Rose Musonye-Kwena, who said there would be direct and indirect losses.
The industry employs hundreds of thousands of people directly in the hotels and lodges and as tour guides, while indirectly benefiting sectors such as agriculture, which supply the businesses, and small-scale industries such as curio dealers.
“It is also important to consider the multiplier effect of these job losses,” she said. “In a typical Kenyan family, when one person earns a living, they support about 10 other people so about a million people will be affected in this sector,” she said.
Musonye-Kwena said the sector was involved in social activities to directly help those affected by the post-election crisis while providing daily updates to tourism markets to help restore confidence in consumers.
“Later on, we will need to rebuild our image [as a tourism destination],” she said.
Blow to horticulture
The horticultural industry, which is a major employer, has also been hard hit. “There is fear all over with vehicles being burnt. Most of our clients are also not placing orders for our products,” Gerrison Wachira, a grader with the horticultural farmers and exporters’ organisation, said.
“We rely on produce coming in from some of the worst-affected areas, such as Eldoret, for passion fruits,” Wachira said.
He said the organisation, which had already laid off casual workers, had been on the verge of closing. “We are going to ship our produce for the first time this month next week,” he said.
The organisation normally ships its produce three times a month and employs at least 80 casual workers who earn 300 shillings ($4) per day. Other horticultural organisations employ hundreds of casual workers.
“Most firms have reduced their manpower,” he said.
The organisation, which mainly relies on road transport by night, has been hit by the insecurity, with most stakeholders considering using local airports, which are more expensive, to transport their produce.
“The government should ensure that there is security for everyone,” Wachira said. “The leaders should talk together and preach peace; they are the ones who have not communicated with the people.”
According to the Secretary General of the Kenyan chapter of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU), Francis Atwoli, the crisis will have hit the broader economy.
|An ODM supporter wears a hat with the portrait of Raila Odinga in the run-up to the disputed 2007 presidential elections|
Already, at least 60,000 people lost their jobs in tea farms in Kericho, 20,000 in Nandi hills, and 10,000 in Limuru, Atwoli said. Another 40,000 workers were let go in Naivasha, with the government providing security in the horticultural farms in the area, he said. Hundreds more had lost jobs within commerce, in banks and supermarkets, for example, after finding it unsafe to continue working in some areas, he said.
At least 400,000 people are expected to lose their jobs if the crisis continues, with a knock-on effect in neighbouring, landlocked Uganda, which relies heavily on Kenya’s transport network for its imports.
Some industries in the country were not functioning as they should, with employees being laid off, Uganda’s deputy prime minister, Eriya Kategaya, said on local television on 30 January. “Factories are being forced to retrench workers,” Kategaya said.
Resolving the crisis
According to Atwoli, the only way out of the crisis was for President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader, Raila Odinga, to listen to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Annan is leading the mediation team to find a lasting solution to the crisis.
“What legacy does Kibaki want to leave behind and does Raila want to inherit a shell?” Atwoli asked.
The crisis had not only led to death and destruction but also increased food insecurity in towns and cities such as Kisumu, Mombasa, Eldoret and Nairobi, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Kenya.
In Kisumu, many businesses had been burnt down or looted, with a high proportion of the working population no longer having income-earning opportunities, the report said. The hardest-hit group was casual labourers and daily wage earners where prolonged closures of industrial factories and other businesses served as shocks to already fragile livelihoods, the report said.
According to the report, the restoration of production to pre-election levels was unlikely in the short term, in turn expected to further exacerbate food insecurity.