Kenya: Meru Leaders Issue Ultimatum Over Miraa Trade Impasse

26 September 2020

Miraa farmers, traders and elected leaders from Meru will resort to mass protests from October 9 if the government will not have pronounced itself on the market woes facing the stimulant.

The resolution was arrived at during a meeting called by miraa leaders on Friday where all leaders heaped blame on President Uhuru Kenyatta for the problems facing the crop.

During the heated meeting at Burieruri Boys High School, legislators led by Senator Mithika Linturi sought to exonerate themselves from blame on the trade impasse arguing that they were also in the dark on how the national government was handling a diplomatic tiff with Somalia.

Somalia has been the key market for miraa taking in about 50 tonnes daily which earns farmers more than Sh10 million.

The struggle to resume miraa trade has been going on for the last seven weeks when Somalia lifted a suspension on international passenger and cargo flights over the Covid-19 pandemic.

Traders and farmers who were eager to start demonstrations held back after Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya called for calm assuring them that President Kenyatta was handling the diplomatic issues.

Last week, the traders were informed that most of the demands raised by Somalia as conditions for resumption of miraa trade, had been resolved.

But on Friday, Senator Linturi, MPs JohnPaul Mwirigi (Igembe South), Kubai Iringo (Igembe Central), Josephat Kabeabea (Tigania East), Mugambi Rindikiri (Buuri) and more than 10 MCAs accused the national government of lacking goodwill in supporting miraa.

"When President Uhuru Kenyatta was hunting for votes, he was clear that he would address the plight of miraa farmers. He never asked us for our votes so that we can beg him. For the Somalia market to be restored, the president must take action. We will task the Agriculture CS to help us meet the president before the two weeks lapse," Mr Linturi said.

He said several efforts by the elected leaders to pressure the government to help miraa farmers have more markets had flopped hence the need to resort to mass action.

Senator Linturi said the ministry of interior and national government coordination, in June, rejected a request to reopen the Somalia border to facilitate miraa trade.

"We have tried to exercise the power delegated to us by the people but they have refused to listen to us. If we cannot be listened to, the people have no other option other than exercising the power themselves through picketing, demonstrations and other legal means," he said.

Mr Mwirigi said despite constant assurances from the president's allies that he was addressing the issues, no official communication was forthcoming.

"If the schools are reopened, most of our people will not be able to raise the school fees because of the loss of the miraa market. We would like to get official communication from the office of the president on the progress made in the resumption of miraa trade," Mr Mwirigi said.

The leaders said they were ready to meet President Kenyatta to understand why the resumption of miraa business in Somalia was taking too long.

"The very government that should be facilitating miraa trade has closed the border to bar trade. We have pleaded for too long and done our part in parliament. We will take to the streets because this is the only language they can understand," Mr Iringo said.

Mr Rindikiri said they were not ready to beg the government on the miraa troubles.

But East Africa Legislative Assembly (Eala) MP Mpuru Aburi said they should plead with the president rather than condemning him.

The leaders were also angered by remarks by a section of MPs who termed miraa a drug during the presentation of a public petition by the Igembe South MP on Thursday.

Several leaders including Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi have condemned Garissa Township MP Aden Duale for his claim that the designation of miraa as a cash crop was among 'carrots' dangled for political reasons in 2017.

"Mr Duale should respect the people of Meru. The Jubilee party should pronounce itself on the claims made by the former Majority leader on the floor of the house. We demand that the Jubilee Party apologises over the remarks," Mr Rindikiri said.

Governor Murungi expressed confidence that the president was on top of things and told off Mr Duale over his remarks on miraa.

Miraa traders now want the relevant government agencies compelled to recover the Somalia market and establish new markets from potential African countries.

They also want the government to address stalled miraa projects, resolve diversion of miraa funds to other crops, reopen the border with Somalia, finalise Kemri research on miraa and remove restrictive levies on miraa in the counties.

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