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Raila: Maize cartels behind shortage, push for imports : The Standard

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Opposition leader Raila Odinga at Opoda farm in Bondo, Siaya County, during a farmers’ field day on Friday. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Pressure continued to mount on Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri following the government’s plan to import maize.

ODM leader Raila Odinga criticised the CS over the controversial maize importation plan, saying it is aimed at ripping off farmers. Raila asked Kiunjuri to shelve the plan, claiming the shortage is artificial and only meant to benefit cartels.
Artificial shortage
“I am convinced that something is amiss and that the country may be getting dragged into the routine of artificial, ministry-made grain shortages to allow importation by a cartel in and out of government while consumers and farmers suffer,” he said.
SEE ALSO :We want a leader who makes Kenya ambitiousThe Opposition leader said there is need to mop up maize held by farmers before imports are allowed in.
Speaking at his farm in Opoda, Siaya County, where he hosted farmers from the region to a field day, Raila said he has consulted widely and has reason to warn against a looming disaster if the government imports maize.
“Our farmers are likely to harvest in August and that means that by September, we will determine whether we have sufficient maize,” he said.
Last week, the National Assembly warned Kiunjuri against the push for maize importation on grounds that the country has enough stocks in farmers’ granaries and National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores.
Members of the Agriculture House committee led by chairman Adan Haji told the government there was no justification to import maize.
SEE ALSO :Corruption should be key plank in 2022 raceThe ministry is pushing for duty-free maize importation to boost grains supply to millers and curb rising flour prices, which on average stood at Sh119 for a 2kg packet last month from Sh86.47 in March.
Millers have linked the rising prices to reduced supply of maize amid talk of farmers hoarding the grains.
The committee reckons that NCPB currently has 2.1 million bags of maize in its stores, and that there is a Cabinet memo directing that 1.7 million bags be released to the millers this month. The memo is, however, awaiting approval.
The MPs said farmers and traders are holding 1.5 million bags, arguing that the grains will last until September when current crop is harvested.
And on Thursday, farmers asked the government to increase its Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) stocks that stagnated at barely four million bags over the years.
SEE ALSO :Raila hails Ethiopian PM Abiy“During the 1970s and 1980s, the country used to maintain stocks of three million bags each of 90kgs to address emergency deficits while the population was still low. The rations have since been increased to only four million when the population has grown,” Grey Maina, a Uasin Gishu Maize farmer, told the SFR board in Eldoret. The team, led by former Cabinet minister Noah Wekesa, met North Rift farmers at TAC Centre in Eldoret following protests over planned imports of 12.5 million bags of maize to address grain shortages.
Pay delays
Farnie Kruger, chairman of Cereals Growers Association, said farmers no longer deliver produce to NCPB due to perennial delays in payment.
“Farmers have enough produce but do not trust the government due to payment delays. Regular vetting has demoralised grain producers,” said Kruger.
And speaking at the Bondo event, six MPs claimed the money was secretly and irregularly withdrawn by the ministry from the fund’s account at the Central Bank of Kenya and paid to a company without the board’s approval.
SEE ALSO :Raila and Kalonzo get back retirement perksMPs Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany), Silas Tiren (Moiben), Caleb Amisi (Saboti), Robert Pukose (Endebes), Marwa Maisuri (Kuria East) and Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills) made the allegations and called for Kiunjuri to quit.
They said the CS could no longer hold office in the midst of the fresh allegations.
The lawmakers also called on the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the Sh1.8 billion graft claim.
Raila said the State should allow the farmers to harvest and take their maize to NCPB stores to justify the shortage.
[Additional reporting by Titus Too]

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Raila OdingaMaize importsMaizeMwangi Kiunjuri

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US official coming to Kenya to discuss huge potential aid project

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KEVIN J.  KELLEY

By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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The head of a special US development programme is due in Kenya next week to hold initial talks on the country’s potential eligibility for project funding that could total billions of shillings.

Sean Cairncross, CEO of the Millennium Development Corporation (MCC), said in a press briefing on Thursday that Kenya is making “excellent progress” toward meeting criteria for inclusion in the programme.

Kenya has failed the MCC’s eligibility tests for more than a decade, largely because of rampant corruption.

But the US government-sponsored MCC decided last month to qualify Kenya for a “threshold programme” that will likely carry funding of between $20 million and $30 million.

The money to be given to Kenya through that programme would be used to promote additional gains in the country’s efforts to limit graft.

Successfully completing this initial step could result in Kenya being chosen for a “compact” with MCC. Such an arrangement, usually focused on infrastructure development, involves an MCC grant averaging about $350 million, Mr Cairncross said.

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Established in 2004 during George W Bush’s presidency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation conditions its assistance on countries’ performance in “ruling justly”, following free-market economic policies, and investing in health, education and environmental initiatives.

Since its inception, MCC has awarded a total of more than $8 billion to 25 developing countries, including 13 on the African continent.

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Kenya must make additional progress in controlling corruption before it can be deemed eligible for an MCC compact, Mr Cairncross noted. The country’s standing in that regard is determined by assessments on the part of the World Bank and other “third-party data sources,” the MCC director said.

Corruption does not have to be eradicated in order for Kenya to qualify for an MCC compact, Mr Cairncross told reporters. Eligibility is assessed on the basis of a “trend toward dealing with that corruption and a willingness to engage government resources and political will to take those issues on,” he said.

This is not the first threshold programme for which Kenya has been chosen.

It entered into an initiative of that type in 2007 that was aimed at reforming the country’s public procurement systems, improving health service and delivery, and enhancing the monitoring capacity of government and civil-society organisations.

Despite some progress on each of those fronts, Kenya was still falling short of MCC eligibility standards when the first threshold programme concluded in 2010.

“Kenya is an important partner in East Africa,” the MCC said in December in announcing the country’s approval for a second threshold programme.

That MCC move likely reflects Washington’s aim of countering the influence China has gained in Kenya through its large-scale infrastructure investments in recent years.

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Form One admission extended to January 24

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OUMA WANZALA

By OUMA WANZALA
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The Ministry of Education has extended admission of Form One students to January 24.

Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang in a circular to regional and county directors of Education dated January 17, said the exercise has been extended to ensure that no learner is locked out of secondary school.

The exercise was to end on January 17 and the extension is a relief to parents, who were struggling to raise fees.

“Schools should use the extension to trace their learners who have not reported and at the same time capture all reported learners in NEMIS,” said Dr Kipsang.

He also directed primary school head teachers to use their 2019 candidates’ list to ensure that they have been placed in secondary schools.

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Dr Kipsang directed the head teachers to report any child, who is out of school for any reason to respective Education officials.

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The government introduced 100 percent transition to secondary school three years ago.

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Police seize illegal gambling machines in Runda

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SARAH NANJALA

By SARAH NANJALA
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More than 1,200 gambling machines were Friday seized by detectives at a private residence in Nairobi’s Runda estate.

Confirming the incident, Gigiri Sub-County Commanding Police Officer Richard Muguai said officers received a tip-off from members of the public.

“A tip to the police station on Thursday led us to begin our investigations and send officers to check the house.

“At the house we found a green tent outside that was well covered and after opening we found more than 1,200 slot coin machines,” he said.

Mr Muguai further said that the house was unoccupied, save for a gardener at the compound who opened the premises for the police.

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“There is no one currently at the house and we are doing investigations to find the owners and tenants of the house. The gardener could not tell us much about who lived there and only told us that the machines were brought to the house in 2018,” he added.

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Preliminary investigation according to the police boss show that the slot machines were brought to the house by three foreigners. The foreigners were of Chinese, Tanzanian and Zambian nationalities.

The police boss said no arrests have been made yet.

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