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Maize shortage attacks part of political witch-hunt: Kiunjuri

Sunday July 14 2019

Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri addresses faithful at Kahira-ini Catholic Church in Nyeri County on July 14, 2019. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GRACE GITAU
By GRACE GITAU
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IRENE MUGO
By IRENE MUGO
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Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri on Sunday said the incessant attacks he has faced following his stand on a maize shortage are pure political witch-hunt.

The minister on Sunday accused Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga and other leaders of misleading Kenyans on the plan to import maize. He noted it is a Cabinet decision, not a personal one.

Mr Kiunjuri further said the leaders attacking him are clueless on the quantity of maize currently in the country and how much is needed.

He said that they are out to tarnish his name and are not concerned about the welfare of Kenyans.

"Some leaders are okay with Kenyans buying maize at Sh130 because they always think that just because they are corrupt, everyone is corrupt," he said.

FLOUR PRICES

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Mr Kiunjuri insisted that the country is facing a maize shortage, hence the gradual increase in the price of maize flour, a situation that he said can be reversed with the importation of additional bags of maize.

"We have seen the price of a two kilogramme packet of maize flour rise from Sh90 to Sh130. But how many people can afford that price? If you deal with gold, do not imagine maize is gold. Some of the people spreading propaganda are involved in selling fake gold," he said at Kahira-ini Catholic Church in Nyeri County.

"The issue we are discussing is not on whether there is maize in the country or not. The challenge is that we do not have enough maize, which has led to increased demand and high prices. The decision to import will not be made by Mwangi Kiunjuri. It can only be made by the government. This far I have indicated that there is a need to import."

Following revelations of the fake gold scam, fingers were pointed at Mr Odinga but he maintained that he blew the whistle and that he was clean.

RAILA'S CLAIMS

M Odinga on Friday urged the ministry to shelve its planned importation of maize, claiming the shortage is artificial and meant to benefit cartels.

He said he consulted widely with farmers and was deeply disturbed by conflicting reports on the need to import large stocks of maize ahead of the August-September harvest.

The ODM leader further said he was concerned about what he said was the routinely distortion of the grains market to pave way for cartels to make imports.

He called on investigative agencies to get to the bottom of the menace and bring the culprits to book.

Some MPs from the Rift Valley have accused Mr Kiunjuri of protecting cartels in the ministry and asked President Kenyatta to sack him.

OFFICIAL POSITION

Also speaking in Nyeri, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua demanded that the Cabinet, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, should set the record straight on the government's position on the maize shortage and any plans for imports.

"We have seen people vilify Mwangi Kiunjuri over the plan to import maize. The Cabinet should issue a statement on whether it is government policy or not," he said.

Mr Gachagua opposed what he termed the continued humiliation of Mr Kiunjuri and failure by the Cabinet to come to his defence.

He said Mt Kenya leaders will not sit back and watch as the CS is attacked.

"We are opposed to attacks on the minister as he is articulating government policies, not personal decisions. It is not fair," he said.