- Kenya's First Lady Lucy Kibaki has been implicated in the controversial maize saga, which reportedly caused the main deficit in the national maize reserves.
The deficit forced the country's main staple food prices to hike, leaving over 10 million people in need of emergency food.
According to documents presented before the parliament yesterday, it is alleged that the First Lady is one of the directors of Gingalili (1968) Ltd, which bought maize on 22 October last year, from the national stores. The Speaker of the National Assembly will decide whether the documents are authentic.
However, the Presidential Press Service defended the First Lady, saying she had never traded in maize, further indicating that the allegations were careless and meant to divert attention from a serious matter of availability and affordability of food.
The Budalang'i Member of Parliament Ababu Namwamba alleged that that National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) managers sold maize to some companies following telephone instructions by the Agriculture Minister William Ruto and that the personal assistant wrote notes using the minister's letterhead asking that some companies be allocated maize.
Minister Ruto has however said maize is not a an illegally imported product saying it could be traded freely, but emphasised that the only problem would be if the maize was not paid. He stressed that there is not even a single bag that was picked from NCPB that was not paid for.
State House accused Mr Namwamba of abusing parliamentary privilege, saying the First Lady has never engaged in any acts that may compromise the public good and has the option of seeking redress against wild and unfounded allegations.
Local reports said maize bought from farmers with public money is meant to be kept in reserves and released during famine or when prices rise. "The mismanagement of the stores by selling discounted maize to brokers has created an artificial shortage, pushing up the price of maize meal, the country's staple," Daily Nation quoted a national document.
Late January, the government fired 14 officials at the National Cereal Board amid an investigation into corruption in the country's grain industry.
The investigations has indicated that close to a billion shillings ($12.6 million) has been lost through corrupt activities in the maize sector. Reports further pointed out that more than 100,000 bags of maize cannot be accounted for, at the strategic grain reserves manned by the NCPB.
Kenya launched an emergency appeal early this month amid an acute food crisis in the country, with over 10 million people said to be facing starvation.
Kenya, sub-Saharan Africa's fifth-largest corn producer, only has enough corn to last until February, after poor rainfall and post-election violence in the first two months of 2008.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.