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Sunday, July 23, 2017

It's foolhardy to ignore food crisis

The political arena seems to have entered a state of flux. The situation some months back, when Jubilee appeared to be in pole position, has been radically altered. The party primaries have profoundly restructured the political landscape. It is no longer about opposition from traditional areas as the space has been drastically expanded.

Pockets of opposition have reared their heads in the Jubilee strongholds of Central and Rift Valley. Meru county is in a state of revolt, as is the case in most of Mt Kenya East. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s former allies governors William Kabogo, Kinuthia Mbugua and Joseph Ndathi, as well as Thuita Mwangi, Ndung’u Gethenji and John Mututho, amongst others, have morphed into a third force.

The high cost of living and the rise in the cost of essential commodities has hit the majority of Kenyans hard. Government has been very coy in informing us on what happened to our strategic grain reserves. The emergency food reserves are meant to ensure we remain food secure and Kenyans never starve.

The NCPB tells a cock and bull story that the SGR, trustees, among them the PSs in the Agriculture, Treasury, Interior and Special Programmes ministries, had delayed to order the sale of SGR maize and that some of the maize has stayed for more than eight years, hence become contaminated.

But we have neither heard of the public destruction of these stocks or the prosecution of the negligent officials. Dairy farmers are paid Sh30-35 per litre while half-a-litre retails at Sh65.

This is after the processor has removed cream, cheese, butter and pig swill, all sellable products. Our politicians happen to be the biggest milk processors in Africa. Sugar, meanwhile, has become a luxury for many.

This has given NASA a much-needed lifeline. The jury is still out on whether it is a stroke of good luck or divine providence. Whatever it is, NASA’s stars are now aligned.

For the first time in Kenya’s history ideal conditions exist for the opposition to oust an incumbent President in a free and fair election.

Amazingly, most of the ammunition for deposition has come from his own quarter. Corruption and mismanagement have bedevilled the Jubilee administration almost from day one. The alleged lack of experience in public management of the President and his deputy is beginning to show.

Their criticism of the long experience of NASA founder Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka as public servants is beginning to ring hollow. Oftentimes Jubilee is being robbed blind by their own officials on account of inexperience or lack of management expertise.

NASA is now going for Jubilee’s jugular. Incredibly, Jubilee operatives appear to be completely oblivious to the challenge facing them. They are concentrating on personal attacks on NASA leader Raila Odinga and completely missing the gist of the matter.

Food is a very emotive matter in any civilisation. Many countries, including the US, France, Algeria, Tunisia, India, Venezuela and Egypt, amongst others, have undergone food revolutions. People vote with their voter’s cards but more often than not they revolt with their stomachs.

Whilst food may not be the sole driver of political instability or uprising, when combined with corruption, a lack of democracy and ethnic tension, it becomes a tinderbox waiting for a match to set it alight. Food is an inherently political commodity that Jubilee would be myopic to ignore.

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