Maize Saga: Who will Save Innocent Kenyans?

Published on 18th June 2009

Just how deep is Kenya's Prime Minister, Hon.Raila Odinga, involved in the contaminated maize scandal? The mystery surrounding the whereabouts of the maize emerged in parliament last month with Hon. Raila confirming the cargo was still at the port of Mombasa while Nairobi Public Health Minister, Beth Mugo, said her officials were not aware of the whereabouts of the maize and warned that it could already be in circulation.  

Rumours that Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his son are Players in the maize business have been around for as long as the row over lack of maize, the sky rocketing prices of maize flour and starving Kenyans has raged. The matter assumed added urgency and currency early last month when MPs not only publicly linked the PM and his son to the contaminated maize scandal, but it was also alleged that he intimidated KeBS officers into approving the contaminated maize as good for human consumption. 

If maize in gunny bags found in various parts of the nation bearing the name South Africa as their country of origin is anything to go by, then Hon. Raila still has questions to answer. At a time when 10 Million Kenyans are facing starvation, various government agencies conspired to allow over 6000 tonnes of genetically modified (GM) maize into the market though it had been ruled unfit for human consumption by the Kenya Bureau of standards (KeBS). This scam not only cost taxpayers Sh.3.6 billion, but it also exposed them to cancer.  

With Hon. Raila’s approval as the chairman of the ad hoc Cabinet committee on food security, poor and starving Kenyans have been fed on GM maize without their knowledge or consent. The public is expecting answers and justice on who is behind this scam.  

The maize may have left the port and found its way to shops countrywide despite warnings by the minister of Public health that it was contaminated. In an effort to cover up their mistakes, the perpetrators of this well orchestrated scheme may have later released good maize in gunny bags bearing South Africa’s logo to hoodwink the public into believing that the maize at the port was good for human consumption as seen in maize impounded by police in parts of Nairobi, Eastern and Central provinces which were certified later as good for use by KeBS. 

Hon.Raila is accusing his political detractors of being behind the distribution of the poisonous maize in the country and that the distribution and seizure of the maize was propaganda meant to tarnish his name. Saying that the maize police impounded in various parts of central, Nairobi and Eastern provinces had been tested in government laboratories and given a clean bill of health, he wonders how contaminated maize could have been transported from Mombasa without being seized. What baffles Kenyans is that he doesn’t wonder why the poisonous maize wasn’t taken to Nyanza and parts of Rift valley Province. The allegation that somebody is waging a chemical warfare against people in central Kenya should be addressed. 

The issues surrounding maize today include the fact that the government promised it would introduce a 2 kg maize flour packet that would cost Ksh.62 because the current Ksh.120 price tag is out of reach for many Kenyans. This cheaper flour is yet to reach the people. The price of a 2 Kg packet of flour remains a distant dream. The government should deliver on its promise or at the very least explain to Kenyans why they can’t deliver on this promise. 

Hon. Raila’s Son, close associates and personal assistant made a whooping Sh.3.6billion by selling the contaminated maize to unsuspecting poor and hungry Kenyans as alleged in a report by the Parliamentary committee on Agriculture, Lands and Natural resources. For how long are we going to be held at ransom by these unscrupulous and merciless politicians as they engage in corruption albeit with impunity? 

Government responses on this grave issue have sounded like the proverbial tower of Babel putting the lives of Kenyans on the line. Is it possible that MPs and the committees that they lead or are members of can be used or influenced to skew issues and findings for purposes of fighting their perceived enemies or settling political scores? 

Kenyans look to parliament as the symbol of their unity to give them direction by passing laws that will be useful now and for posterity and for decisions that are meant to serve the entire country and not sections of it or some vested interests. What Parliament needs to investigate and with a fine tooth comb is under what circumstances contaminated maize found its way to Kenya and then go all out to ensure that Kenyans aren’t fed on it. 

Khaemba Situma

Mr. Khaemba is a freelance journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya


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