Mashujaa Day is a time for celebrating heroes of the past, the recent and the present for the little or major positive contributions they’ve made to Kenya. It is not easy to say however, whether Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri can at this point in time consider himself one of those heroes.
The Ministry of Agriculture has been riddled with one scandal after another with talks of powerful cartels and unscrupulous middle men scooping the local farmers’ had earned money despite the fact that the government has been issuing billions of Kenya shillings to pay local farmers.
Yesterday’s order’s by President Kenyatta at Bukhungu Stadium may have brought into feverpitch the rot at the ministry of Agriculture with the urgent need for the Cabinet secretary to crack the Matiang’i styled whip to save his reputation alongside that of his boss.
It is known that certain politicians (let’s not mention them here for safety purposes), have been behind the cartels at the ministry of agriculture long even before the days when the current Deputy President was in Charge of the docket and have used the windfalls from the National Cereals and Produce Board to fund political campaigns an invest in other private businesses.
Connected to these politicians are unscrupulous business men who are known not to have any big maize farms but shop for cheap maize from neighboring countries and smuggle them into Kenya. And because they have connections at National Cereals and Produce Board, their fake produce, which somehow bypasses stringent measures put in place to accept top quality maize, is accepted and the produce from farmers that ought to be bought by the national government, is left behind.
The same problem seems to affect the sugar industry, which has sugar barons highly connected within government circles, importing cheap sugar, which is not even qualified for human consumption, then inflating the price and selling to the government, leaving honest hardworking farmers without a market for selling their produce, which should have been bought by the government in the first place.
How then is the government ever going to support local farming initiatives if unscrupulous businessmen funding local political campaigns and bribing Members of Parliament and the senate keep importing subsidized products and selling to the government?
The Cabinet Secretary finds himself between a rock and a hard place because most of these cartels are highly connected within various branches and levels of government and are known to lobby politicians under their payroll to block various inquiries into their activities. He can crack the whip sure, but how far can his action extend without these shadow forces baying for his job or his blood? It is important to note that some of these cartels have been accused of hobnobbing with some of Kenya’s most powerful political families.
Along with his performance at this ministry is his reputation which may derail or catapult his political ambitions come 2022 as he is one of the major politicians being considered to be Hon. William Ruto’s running mate, if he ever makes it there anyway.
A President can give an order at a public rally or a national holiday speech for certain things to be done just to raise the emotions of the populous and to give the media something to write and speak about. We have seen lifestyle audits, which to some of us, have been termed political schemes and false Public Relations stunts to hoodwink the public. But when your boss, who may belong to a family that may or may not be connected to some of these cartels, orders you to crack the whip on a problem that is deeply entrenched and has existed for a long time, what options do you have?
And if he begins to crack the whip as ordered, how far will he go without touching the powers that be before receiving phone calls to slow down or stop his investigation into maize and sugar cartels? We may not know the level of honesty that may have gone into the President’s speech during the Mashujaa day celebrations and as such we cannot hope that the whip will be cracked at the ministry of Agriculture with a full clean up of the rot undertaken.
Taking out sugar and maize cartels at the Ministry of Agriculture will be the biggest test that Kiunjuri will face yet, with his investigations touching on the deeply corrupt tenderpreneurs who are close to his boss. Let’s see how he will do it and the result.