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No Kenyan should starve when state can buy maize

Political Analyst and Blogger

Kang'irisai resident stricken with hunger waiting for relief food in Turkana
Drought Kang'irisai resident stricken with hunger waiting for relief food in Turkana
Image: HESBORN ETYANG

I have been following with keen interest the unfolding reports touching on the drought situation in the country. Whereas the government insists that no Kenyan has died, the picture given by media and the leaders drawn from the most affected counties is totally different. This raises the question; who is telling the truth? Well, even if no Kenyan has died, the images and pictures appearing in the media showed the situation in some counties looks bad.

In Baringo, the leaders initially claimed that 17 people have succumbed to hunger. It was hard to tell whether their remarks were politically motivated or based on truth and facts. If you ask the Ruto diehards, this is what they would probably tell you. They were not factual because they were in the political camp of Ruto’s rival. Then leaders should stop mixing politics with serious matters of life and death!

The initial government statement released by DP William Ruto, who was flanked by three CSs of the line ministries, further said the government has enough food to feed the victims of the drought. He has since insisted no Kenyan has died and that the chief, who was spreading these rumors, was arrested and is being held for questioning.

Food security is one of the critical components of the state's Big Four development agenda. So, if a person dies because of hunger, people would naturally question the commitment of the government to deal with this recurring problem.

President Kenyatta’s commitment to address the problem of food insecurity is not in doubt. However, one thing has remained clear. His efforts are being undermined by some powerful political forces in his government. These forces are believed to be behind the mega corruption scandals that have so far remained unresolved.

If the billions of shillings looted every year were invested in agriculture and other economic activities, the deaths resulting from hunger would be a thing of the past.

The current drought is being witnessed at a time when the national grain basket of Rift Valley has had a bumper harvest. So, why are some Kenyans staring at death from hunger? It is largely because the National Cereal and Produce Board has been turned into a cash cow.

We all know that a huge chunk of the money allocated to buy maize from the farmers was looted. The rest of the funds were dished out to unscrupulous traders and politicians-cum-businesspeople who either supplied air or imported sub-standard maize from foreign countries. A huge amount of imported maize has since been declared unfit for human consumption.

As the drought continues, farmers are pleading with the government to buy their maize, soe of which is rotting and being destroyed by weevils in their stores. Why can’t the government buy this maize and distribute it to hunger-stricken Kenyans?

Notably, the President would not take lightly the cries of the maize farmers. At one point, he publicly rebuked Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri. Tell the farmers, where did the money allocated to buy their produce go? If the funds were looted, tell them who were the beneficiaries. If you fail to do so, you will carry this cross.

In a statement he released a few days later, Uhuru asked the Treasury to release more money and directed NCPB to buy a 90kg bag of maize at Sh2,500 instead of Sh2,300. The farmers had complained Sh2,300 was too little.

But to date, a cloud of confusion and uncertainty still rages on. Many farmers complain the NCPB officials and their masters are yet to fully comply with the presidential directive.