Parents scramble for school lunch as famine bites in Pokot

By Kephas Ayiecha (Weekly Citizen)

Trapped between life and death, parents in famine-stricken West Pokot District have invaded local schools scavenging for food.


Rains have failed in Kenya, 10 million people hit by famine.

Rains have failed in Kenya, 10 million people hit by famine.

The situation has triggered tension in most schools as the parents scramble for food with pupils.

In Chepkobe Boarding Primary School, the effects of hunger are evident as pupils search for wild leaves and fruits to supplement food from the World Food Programme. The school with a population of 400 children suspended lessons to allow pupils trek long distances to fetch water.

The school head teacher Dominic Riangoreng said parents flocked into the institution and forcibly shared lunch and supper with the pupils. “We have tried to chase them away but they are stubborn and distressed by hunger,” Riangoreng told reporters at the school adding that the little food stock had been exhausted following the invasion by the parents and he is contemplating closing the school.

He also said that water shortage has forced pupils to hunt for Cactus plants because they are rich in water and help in preventing dehydration.

A similar scenario was seen in Nasukuta Primary School where parents queued for lunch of boiled maize alongside their children. The parents threatened to cause mayhem if barred from getting the food. “We are starving. We don’t have food at our homes. We are going to die if we are denied food here,” said Grace Longole.

Kapenguria Member of Parliament, Julius Murgor, says the food crisis has affected about 200,000 people in the large West Pokot District. The legislator said two people have died of starvation in his constituency and hundreds are in dire need of food relief.

Speaking to the Weekly Citizen after a tour of the constituency, Murgor explained that food sources have collapsed leaving the locals to rely on wild fruits and leaves for survival. Cattle, the main source of livelihood for majority of the locals, are emaciated due to lack of pasture and water. Murgor said people have migrated to Moroto and Nakapirpirit Districts of eastern Uganda in search of food, pasture and water.

The famine is largely attributable to poor rains in the past year which resulted in below average harvests. Violence that erupted following disputed elections in December 2007 disrupted agricultural activities. Many farmers lost crops and livestock and even land due to ethnic clashes. The affected farmers are still too afraid to return to their farms.


Odinga family in corrupt deals

Article extracted from the Weekly Citizen newspaper of Nairobi:

Towards the end of 2008, Kenyans were forced to grapple with an unreliable supply of fuel and artificial rise in its pricing.

On more than one occasion, the Managing Director of the National Oil Pipeline Mr George Okungu gave widely televised interviews to reassure Kenyans that there was no fuel shortage or crisis as such in the country. But between December 28 and 29th 2008, most filling stations upcountry had no fuel. Workers returning from holiday, particularly those travelling from Western Kenya back to Nairobi got stranded in Kisumu and other towns.

During the same period, a medium sized oil firm called Triton Limited, which is run by a Kenyan of Asian origin, Mr Yagnesh Devani, and another trader Mr Pankaj Somaia, became legally bankrupt.

Yagnesh Devani and Prankaj Somaia have their roots in Kisumu and it is in Chemelil area within the Nyanza sugar belt, where the first Triton fuel outlets were set up. What was most intriguing is that in-spite of its definite inability to source and service the largest oil order in the country, Triton Ltd, is alleged to have secured a government tender to purchase national oil supplies for a six month quota through the alleged intervention of the Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is said to have personal and family interests in the oil industry as a major player. Triton Ltd beat all other seasoned firms such as OilLibya (formerly Mobil) and Shell/BP.

Triton had no capacity to deliver such a huge consignment of oil to the nation, and immediately after securing the government tender, they set upon sub-contracting to rivals at a profit without any actual direct importation.

To compound the saga, Afri Global Ltd, a firm belonging to Raila Odinga’s elder brother Dr. Oburu Oginga, who is the Finance Assistant Minister, and which is run by Dr. Oburu’s son – a pint sized fellow called Elijah Abonyo Oburu – was one of the key beneficiaries.

After this scam Elijah Oburu bought a brand new showroom Mercedes Benz limousine valued at Kshs 24 million (US$320,000) which he now drives around Kisumu City.

Another firm, African Oils Ltd, which belongs to the Prime Minister’s son Fidel Castro Odinga also profitted from the scandal.

And not to be out done was the Prime Minister himself with his company Bakri Ltd, operated by one Mr. Mike Njeru who joined the list of compliant firms that allegedly benefited from the tender pool sharing and in turn selling the same to the highest bidder.

Raila Odinga’s younger sister Adhiambo is the managing director of Petro Plus, a firm involved in bulk oil sales in the high seas, thanks to the closeness of the Prime Minister with former Nigerian ruler Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo.

So entrenched is the Odinga family in the oil industry that players advise it is practically impossible to do serious oil business in Kenya without roping in a family member.

It is widely rumoured that Devani heavily funded last year’s 2007 general campaign for ODM team and that those who benefited from Devani were only returning a favor.


Top govt officials on the spot over maize importation saga (article extracted from the Kenya Times)

Even as the country stands on a brink of starvation more twists are emerging in the maize importation deal that has shifted from an intervention measure to what appears to be a mega scandal.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga is the latest victim of the emerging saga. Legislators accuse the PM of favouring a member of his family in the maize importation process that is becoming more of a financial scandal than crisis solving mechanism.

The latest hint that taxpayers in Kenya are losing billions to corrupt elements in the government was dropped by Justice Minister Martha Karua who blamed some cabinet colleagues for the looming food crisis stopping short of calling it artificial. An estimated Sh2 billion could have already been lost in the corrupt deals involving maize importation.

Though Agriculture minister William Ruto has banned all exports of maize, rogue middlemen are still getting away with it. Once in Southern Sudan, the commodity goes for more than three times the cost compared to Kenya.

While NCPB sells the maize to millers and middlemen at a price of Sh1750 (US$23) per 90 kilogramme bag, the middlemen repackage the commodity and export it to Southern Sudan where it goes for about Sh6000 ($80) for the same quantity.

The situation is compounded by the fact that thousands of maize bags valued at over Sh150 million ($2 million) have been allocated to questionable millers in what is fast developing into a huge scandal in the wake of a seemingly divided government. Middlemen and brokers that the Prime Minister and Agriculture minister William Ruto promised to eliminate in the maize importation deal are reported to be on the loose and more vicious than before.

More on this story from the Kenya Times >>