Wednesday, September 17, 2008



September 17, 2008
By Philip Mulee, Emmanuel Onyango
Parliament Buildings
Nairobi, Kenya

THE Grand Opposition Caucus yesterday challenged President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to decisively tackle problems facing Kenyans, among them the looming famine.Members of the caucus said Kenyans want to see the two principals in the grand coalition government provide them with firm, quick and sustainable solutions to the escalating fuel prices and biting famine in some parts of the country.

The MPs made the call even as the Government conceded that it urgently needs Sh.5.3 billion to mitigate against the food crisis with the lion’s share expected to be used to purchase 65,000 metric tonnes of cereals to compliment the existing strategic grain reserves. Special Programmes Ministry warned that up to 5.3 million people need relief food for basic sustenance until the end of the year.Those to be significantly affected by the looming food shortage are 3.5 million urban slum dwellers and 1.38 million people in rural areas who are expected not to meet their basic food requirements in the coming six months.

The shocking revelations were contained in an assessment report released by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG). The assessment, conducted between July and August 2008, covered 30 districts in drought prone arid and semi-arid districts and some districts affected by the post-election skirmishes.Areas expected to bear the brunt of the food crisis include Turkana, Mandera, Samburu, Baringo, Marsabit, Wajir, Moyale and Garissa districts. Also affected are Isiolo, Laikipia, Ijara, Taita Taveta, Kitui, Mwingi, Makueni, Mbeere, Malindi, Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River and Kajiado districts.

Currently, the affected areas have already began experiencing crop failure, depletion of water and pasture, increased water prices in urban areas and weakening of livestock body conditions in pastoral areas.Urban dwellers, who traditionally depend entirely on food purchases, have significantly been affected by the economy’s double digit inflation and rising food prices against static income levels.Addressing a press conference at Parliament Buildings, members of the Grand Opposition Caucus expressed concern that President Kibaki, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Premier Raila Odinga continued to conduct business as usual while ordinary Kenyans paid the price of the post-election crisis.

Giving what they termed as the first communiqué, the ten MPs outlined the shortcomings of the Grand Coalition government as they released the agenda for the next Session of Parliament."The opposition caucus is alarmed by the high cost of energy that has spiraled out of control, with devastating effects on ordinary Kenyans. "Pump prices for Kerosene (85). Diesel (104), Premium (108), and domestic Gas (4,895 for 12 kg) have risen to unprecedented levels", said a statement read by Ababu Namwamba (Bundalangi), the architect for Grand Opposition.

The cost of electricity is now out of reach of ordinary Kenyans, the MPs said warning that the energy crisis was having a damaging domino effect on all sectors of the economy and rapidly eroding the purchasing power of Kenyans, "whose incomes cannot keep pace with the galloping cost of living".The MPs faulted the government’s manner in handling new appointments and changes in the Civil Service and cited cases of former National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Managing Trustee Ms Rachael Lumbasyo and the ex-Central Bank of Kenya Deputy Governor Jacinta Mwatela.

"We reject the politicisation of the armed forces and the civil service, and challenge this government to halt forthwith this dangerous gerrymandering in state institutions", they said.Namwamba was flanked by MPs Kiema Kilonzo, Bonny Khalwale, Boaz Kaino, Isaac Ruto, Lucas Kigen, Joshua Kutuny, Julius Kones, Charles Onyancha and Mithika Linturi.When Parliament reconvenes on October 7, the Opposition Caucus promised to move a motion for the compensation of lives lost in the post-election violence, IDPs and tracing of missing persons.

They also plan to move another motion of adjournment to discuss what they termed the government’s move to selectively import maize, sugar and wheat.They promised to work hand in hand with Kenyan youths to complete and formally launch a comprehensive marshal plan to truly empower them through income generation and political empowerment, among other issues."We shall focus on a progressive legislative agenda aimed at strengthening institutions of democracy in Kenya and responding to the myriad challenges bedeviling Kenyans.

"We shall firmly hold the coalition government accountable to the roadmap for delivering a new constitution by April, 2009", they stated.They also vowed to fight corruption promising to conclude the probe on the controversial sale of Grand Regency, De La Rue currency printing contract, the Kenya Railways Concessionaire to Rift Valley Railways and the selective deal with OilLibya to upgrade the Kenya Oil Refinery in Mombasa.The MPs expressed concern over the disparities in salaries of various cadres of civil servants and disclosed that they would bring a motion seeking means of harmonising the salaries.

But Special Programmes Minister Naomi Shaban gave a positive outlook of the Government’s preparedness to deal with the food crisis. She explained that maize imports as well as donor funding had been secured to provide relief food to the affected areas."There should be no cause for alarm as the Ministry of Agriculture has put in place mechanisms to ensure adequate maize supply in the country. Some of the strategies include planned imports before the main harvest begins in October November," Minister Shaban said at a media conference yesterday.

Also present at the occasion was Northern Kenya and Arid Areas Minister Mohammed Elmi and his assistant Hussein Sasura.Interventions by the Government will include provision of drought resistant seeds to farmers, mass livestock vaccination, restocking, fish stocking, management of acute malnutrition and rehabilitation of shallow wells.Interventions in the agricultural sector will cost Sh.480 million, livestock sector to cost Sh.493 million, fisheries sector to cost Sh.24 million, health and nutrition to cost Sh.207 million and the food sector to cost Sh.3.8 billion.

The Sh.5.3 billion required to forestall the looming food crisis will be footed jointly by Treasury and development partners."Treasury will not sponsor the whole process, we are partnering with the World Food Programme and other development partners. A bigger chunk will, however, come from Treasury," explained Minister Shaban.