Archive for July 29th, 2008

The Connection Between High Food Prices and Grand Corruption

Posted on 29 July 2008. Filed under: Corruption, Food Security |

Bunge La Mwananchi held a forum on Wednesday 2nd July, 2008 at Professional Centre Nairobi, between 1.00 pm and 5.00 pm. as part of its civil awareness initiative to rally people around issues that affect them. Bunge La Mwananchi had in the recent past organised an activity in which Kenyans held street protest to complain against the high food prices. There has been a continuing debate amongst grass root Kenyans as to what is truly causing the high food prices. Theories proposed have ranged from there having been poor harvests due to lack of rain; and the after-effect of the post-elections violence and displacement; the disappearance of traditional foods from the farmers’ options of crops and that the food crisis is a global problem.

While there may be some truth in these factors, Kenyans nevertheless see a clear link between the high food prices and corruption; where they define corruption as bad leadership, lack of ethics in governance and mismanagement of resources. To explore this more, the topic of discussion of the forum was “The connection between high food prices and grand corruption”. Attendance was estimated at 230 people drawn from grass-root leaders of CBOs, slum groups and the general public.

Key issues arising from the discussions:

1. It was noted that corruption is not a new phenomenon. Unfortunately, due to its having been around for a while, it is increasingly being treated as a normal issue despite where it is driving the country. It is important that a firm and long lasting solution is explored and adopted concerning how we treat corruption as a country.

2. It was cautioned that civic vigilance must be heightened so that political leaders are held accountable to their constituents.

3. It was noted that through corruption, Kenya has lost a lot of funds. In Goldenberg we lost K.Shs. 140 billion, an additional K.Shs. 300 billion was identified as lost by the Kroll report and a further K.Shs. 120 billion in the Anglo-Leasing scandal; yet this is by no means an exhaustive list. Looking at these collosal figures, it is unclear why our leaders are seeking aid at all. It was suggested that as we deal with current corruption scandals, perpetrators of past scandals are still with us and should be held to answer. It is time to hold the different political regimes accountable in recovering the lost funds.

4. Government’s mandate is to provide security against threats for its citizen; when a government cannot ensure security against all forms of threat it does not business of being in power. Food insecurity has endangered many lives in Kenya especially West and East Pokot where our people are feeding wild carcases and rats; this leads us to wonder, do we have a government?

5. In our history we have had subtle corruption scandals that have somehow slipped under the public radar. For example the process of government tendering seems to belong to an exclusive clique that does business with the government, since no Wananchi ever qualify. Even in employment, people in the public service who have attained retirement age are still holding on to jobs as their contracts and continuously renewed. Further, in a nation where there is a high level of unemployment it is corruption for there to be individuals that hold more than one salaried position.

6. According to Marsgroup Kenya, a research firm, in a publication in the Nairobi Star, there are many government resource wastages. For example, the Ministry of Finance has been allocated K.Shs. 500,000/= per day for hospitality and as much as K.Shs. 12 million is spent every public holiday in flying the president’s speech to different parts of Kenya – why not fax it as it is usually a 3 pg document? They also point out that the money is extravagantly spent on foreign trips, servicing government vehicles and paying for office space that is not used. If that money was well managed we would have surplus funds that would be used as a safety net against high food prices.

7. The debate on corruption is now focussed on the Grand Regency. However, the crusaders are themselves suspect e.g. for having been involved in past corruption – is this a cover up? MPs debate on Grand Regency comes close on the heels of their refusal to pay tax. Refusal to pay tax is also corruption. So is the debate a decoy from the taxation issue?

8. Before the Grand Regency there were issues that concerned Kenyans e.g. resettlement and compensation of IDPs, minimum wage increase demand, high food prices. While these issues touched on Wananchi directly and we expected our MPs and civil society leadership to fight for us, we did not see them address these issues with as much passion as the Grand Regency issue. Although Grand Regency scandal is not acceptable, why didn’t our MPs and Civil Society leaders fight as passionately on the Mwananchi issues? At the reading of the budget, Kenyans were promised that the moves recommended by the finance minister would cause prices on rice and wheat to fall. The situation on the ground is starkly different.

9. It was noted that the Grand Regency scam is not the first in which Kimunya has been implicated. There was the De La Rue tender, the continued payment of the Anglo leasing promissory note, Safaricom IPO’s management, Mobitelea (swindled cash from the public). So in dealing with Grand Regency, the above context should form a consideration.

10. The minister of agriculture promised having taken steps to bring down the price of fertiliser but this is yet to be done. Why?

11. There is money the government set aside for the resettlement of IDPs and their compensation fund but it is not clear who is managing the fund and the amount of it. It could well be the next scandal we have to deal with.

12. There’s been a long standing project for rural electrification. The recent introduction of a standing charge of 120/= is a scam. How can people who cannot afford to live on 1$ (a dollar) a day be expected to pay simply for being hooked up to the grid? They thought it was a relief and now it is an additional a liability. If 1,000,000 houses pay the standing charge alone, then there is a cool 120,000,000/= to be made. If not properly scrutinised it has the makings of another grand scandal.

13. It is not clear why the Ndungu land report has not been implemented by successive regimes. Is it because the report implicated the powerful individuals and successive regimes haven’t had nerve to take them on? Isn’t this abetting past corrupt land deals to subsist a day longer with each passing day that the report remains merely a report?

14. In the peace accord, the fourth agenda was to do with land, unemployment, poverty, issues of resource and redistribution of wealth. If the politicians move on and forget about agenda four, that is corruption.

15. Section 25(a) and 56(b) of the Kenya Anti Corruption Authority and Economic Crimes Act are sections of the law that perpetuate impunity by freeing people implicated in corruption. If the politicians were serious with fighting corruption how did this section get into our laws?

Resolutions:

1. Kibaki must stick to what he said at his swearing in ceremony in 2003: “that corruption shall cease to be our way of life”. He should do that by eliminating all people reasonably suspected of corruption from his government and prosecuting those against whom evidence of corruption is compiled. The buck stops with him.

2. The politicians who are mentioned in past corruption such as YK92, Land grabbing, Anglo Leasing, Kenren fertilizers among others and leading in the protest against the Kimunya Grand Regency saga must stay warned that they are also on line.

3. Raila is a recent victim of corruption (flawed election) and therefore must be give leadership in ensuring that the fight against corruption is won. Raila has interest for presidency 2012 and must start now to fight corruption and impunity exercised by the powerful individuals in our society and not wait for campaign trails to make pledges.

4. While a commission of inquiry would be due process in investigating Kimunya and rooting out corruption from the treasury, from Kenyans’ past experience with previous inquiries we do not have faith in the process and have misgivings that the commission could be used to sanitize Kimunya and return him back as Minister of Finance.

5. Ndungu land report should be made public and its recommendations implemented. There are people who looted land and made millions of Kenyans landless and they must be held accountable to return the land so that we can resettle the IDPs, squatters and landless Kenyans.

6. The laws that support impunity should be deleted from our law especially section 25(a) and 56(b) of the Anti Corruption and Economic crime Act.

Contact:
Bunge la Mwananchi
Email: http://www.bulamwa.co.ke
tel. +254 720 451 235

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Investigate “torture” in Mt Elgon Operation, Kenya Govt Urged

Posted on 29 July 2008. Filed under: Governance, Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Ann Weru/IRIN
People displaced by the conflict in Mt Elgon are slowly returning home. HRW says the government must investigate claims of torture

NAIROBI, 28 July 2008 (IRIN) – A public inquiry should be set up into “torture and war crimes” committed by the Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF) militia and the military in Mt Elgon District, human rights activists said.

“We need an independent civilian inspectorate of the police and military … to restore trust in the security forces,” Ben Rawlence of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Africa Division said in Nairobi at the launch of a report, All the Men Have Gone: War Crimes in Kenya’s Mt Elgon District.

The report documents two years of “abuses” by both the SLDF and security forces. The SLDF, it alleges, were responsible for killing at least 600 people, terrorising thousands and torturing hundreds since 2006.

The police, paramilitary and military, on the other hand, are alleged to have tortured hundreds of men detained in mass round-ups since March in response to the militia activities.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe refuted the claims, saying the Kenyan police had followed international practice while performing their duties in the district.

“We have done our own investigations [on the allegations] and will be releasing a comprehensive report in due course,” he told IRIN, describing the reports as “very inaccurate and far-fetched”.

Blaming both the SLDF and government security forces for serious human rights abuses, the report said: “The Kenyan government has a responsibility to promptly and impartially investigate and prosecute the individuals responsible for these crimes.”

“This is not an acceptable way of dealing with an insurgency … It should be within the law,” Rawlence said. The SLDF was formed in 2006 to seek redress for alleged injustices during land distribution in a settlement scheme known as Chebyuk, with the conflict pitting two main clans of the Sabaot against each other.

At least 37 people have “disappeared” after being taken into custody by security forces, according to the human rights group, and residents had remained wary of retributions from SLDF militias.

“The military and the police have a responsibility to protect the people from any regrouping by the SLDF,” HRW said.

HRW’s Africa director, Georgette Gagnon, said the “successful” operation to tackle the rebellion in Mt Elgon had come at a terrible cost.

The group called on foreign governments providing military aid and other assistance to Kenyan security forces to review that support in light of the mounting evidence of torture.

“Right now there is calm in Mt Elgon; people are pleased with what the military is doing but not the impact of the first three weeks of the [military] intervention,” Job Bwonya, executive director of the Western Kenya Human Rights Watch, said.

“The government should also come up with a land policy to prevent further suffering of the people of Mt Elgon,” Tiger Wanyanja, a human rights activist, said.

Hassan Omar Hassan, a commissioner with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights called for a “stop to the strategy of intimidation of humanitarian groups” working in the district.

On 21 July, the charity Médecins Sans Frontières said its staff had been stopped at roadblocks and prevented by local authorities from providing medical assistance to civilians in the district.

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Cholera Outbreaks in W. Kenya Blamed on Contaminated Water

Posted on 29 July 2008. Filed under: Governance, MDGs, Public Health |


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Drinking contaminated water is one of the main causes of cholera

NAIROBI, 29 July 2008 (IRIN) – Recurrent outbreaks of cholera in the western province of Nyanza are caused by widespread water contamination, including seepage from latrines, health officials said.

“The major contributor to the recent outbreaks in the area was unsafe water,” Shahnaaz Sharif, the Senior Deputy Director of Medical Services in Kenya’s health ministry, said. “In Kisumu, many wells are built near the latrine; eventually the sewage seeps into the wells.”

The high water table in the area was a contributing factor, Sharif said. Tests done on water samples from Kisumu and Nyando, two of the most affected districts in the province, indicated that 75 percent of sources were contaminated.

“People need to be made aware of water safety, by fetching their water from a safe source and boiling it,” Moses Atuko, the emergency health manager at the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) said. At least 80 percent of cholera transmissions are attributed to a lack of access to safe water.

“Sanitation is health; you have poor sanitation you have poor health,” Atuko said.

In addition to encouraging the proper use of latrines, there was a need to increase the number of latrines in households, not only for hygiene but also for cultural reasons, as local customs did not allow men and women to share toilet facilities, he added.

The KRCS, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and other NGOs, was sensitising people in the affected areas to the importance of good sanitation and discouraging practices such as bathing and washing clothes in the rivers.

According to Atuko, this “was a tall order”, since many people in the region used Lake Victoria and the rivers as their main sources of water.

However, he added, the number of cholera cases had fallen. “Last week, we only reported four cases; four weeks ago, there were more than 100 cases,” he said.

The health ministry is enforcing public health laws by discouraging hawking of food in open markets and streets. It also conducted mapping of water sources for chlorination and was promoting the use of water purifiers.

“We have to enforce proper eating standards,” Sharif said. “We are discouraging roadside cooking.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), inadequate food safety and hygiene are also major contributors to the sporadic outbreaks of the disease.

Cholera is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae and is characterised by watery diarrhoea, vomiting, muscle cramps and severe dehydration. Treatment is mainly by rehydration and up to 80 percent of cholera cases can be treated successfully using oral rehydration salts.

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    A blog created to cover environmental and political information in Kenya with a view to promoting POVERTY ALLEVIATION through creating awareness of the Millennium Development Goals

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