9 May 2017

Kenya: Do Not Be Fooled, Food Shortage the Result of Misrule and Graft

Photo: John Githinji/The Nation
Traders at Olkalou open-air market in Nyandarua County on May 3, 2017.

It's not surprising that politicians are running helter-skelter over the soaring cost of living.

The rising prices of food, house rent and other basics are becoming the hot button election campaign issue.

Obviously a government seen to be inept, clueless and in gross dereliction of duty will be facing the greatest pressure, hence all this running around like a headless chicken.

The red flag over imminent food shortages was raised more than one year ago, but President Uhuru Kenyatta sat on his haunches, playing politics and giving himself glowing self-assessments on the delivery of the Jubilee electoral promises.

He seemed to have forgotten that beyond grandiose infrastructure projects, Jubilee had also promised that no Kenyan would go hungry, or otherwise lack the basics in food, shelter, health care and education.


Now, it has suddenly dawned on the President and Deputy President William Ruto that Kenyans are, indeed, going hungry.

The response is an emergency recall of Parliament so it can pass an urgent supplementary Budget.

Calling back parliamentarians who are busy on the election campaign trail is a knee-jerk reaction that exposes a government completely at sea.

It was just five weeks ago that the same Parliament passed the 2017-2018 Budget tabled by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich.

The record Sh2.6 billion Budget that catered for almost any political project the Jubilee team could dream up to smooth the way ahead of the August 8 General Election; but despite all the projections and warnings of a severe food deficit, contained absolutely no provision for that.

I don't see what the Parliamentarians will do now that cannot be done by administrative actions and proper implementation of existing policies and utilisation of funds.


Parliament can be asked to vote more funds from the skies or to pass laws on price controls, but some of that might be as foolish as opposition leader Raila Odinga's pledge to force reduction of house rent when, or if elected president.

Years of misrule cannot be corrected by one parliamentary sitting, by dictatorial fiat or by populist roadside declarations.

The fact is that the Jubilee regime gave priority to political projects at the expense of basic needs.

It borrowed and spent recklessly, with much of what was appropriated for maybe worthwhile projects misappropriated into private pockets of the high and mighty, those with family and political links to the top party leadership.

The party now has the excuse that the food crisis is the result of a natural phenomenon that can't be blamed on the government.


That is a lie; or at best a lame and disingenuous excuse. True, prolonged drought always has a deleterious impact on food production.

However, anyone with a modicum of education today knows that while drought may, indeed, be a natural calamity, famine is man-made, an outcome of mismanagement, incompetence and criminal dereliction of today.

In Kenya, the food production and supply chain systems have always been under the thumb of criminal profiteers ready to subject Kenyans to starvation and death so that they can profit from emergency imports.

The Ministries of Agriculture and Special Projects, have since the kleptocratic Nyayo regime to date, been redoubts for commodity traders who miraculously have ships full of grain in the high seas anytime some Treasury or Agriculture Cabinet Secretary signs a tax waiver or import permit.

Those tasked with ensuring food security are, in fact, more busy ensuring food scarcity so that they can cash in.


Those criminal cartels will not be tamed by a parliamentary session, but by the top leadership in government cracking the whip on the cancer within its ranks.

Already in debt to the bone, we are now asking Parliament to vote more funds for famine relief, subsidies or whatever else we can throw money at.

Now, this is not government money. It is not Jubilee money. It is not money from overflowing pockets of President Kenyatta and DP Ruto.

It is my money and your money. It is money from the pocket of every hard-pressed Kenyan.

We, therefore, have the right--beyond whatever political capital Mr Odinga and the Nasa brigade might mine--to ask very tough questions of this government.

Who sold the strategic grain reserve? Who ate my flour, sugar, and potatoes? And who drank my milk?

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