Sunday, August 17, 2014

PRESIDENT UHURU’S DUTY WAIVER ON DIASPORA HAS PITFALLS

There is no denying, we need rules regulating all imports to the country especially on sensitive materials like: drugs, alcohol and other consumables. However, there are certain restrictions that should scrap in order to create a flexible environment for business in the Country. 

The recent directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta while on a tour to the US, to waive custom duty on cars owned by Kenyans returning home was merely a political

enticement. Kenyans are aware that we are under a new dispensation where the President can say yes while the law says the opposite.  

Kenyans in the Diaspora should not just jubilate about the President’s directive, but ask the government to do more in fast-tracking the improvement of cargo clearance at the port of Mombasa as well as to amend or scrap some import rules which do not augur well for importers.

While the President’s directive is intended to benefit Kenyans returning home from countries where left-hand cars are a norm to buy right-hand cars in another country and have it cleared duty free, there is a rule on motor vehicle importation which makes the directive elusive unless the rule it’s scrapped or amended.

Remember, to qualify for a duty waiver, Kenyan returnees must have owned a car for not less than 365 days. This caveat makes Uhuru’s promise sound like Moi’s old roadside declarations. The deal sounded sweet but to me, very fictional- a returning Kenyan flies from US; lands in Uganda or Japan, and buys a right hand car which is less than 8 years and have it cleared duty free upon entry to Kenya!

First of all, the President should rally his Jubilee government to scrap the 8 years age on all imported vehicles into the country, scrap the restriction on left-hand vehicles and 365 days ownership period. With this, we can believe his word.

Let us not be brainwashed. Duty waivers have been in existence for all returning Kenyans so long as the vehicle they bring in are less than 8 years and of right-hand drive mode… I therefore challenge Kenyans in the Diaspora who are praising President Uhuru first learn about our import rules on motor vehicles.

Nip corruption at the Port
I personally think that the government should do more to improve on cargo clearance at the Port of Mombasa, ensure that, there is integrity in the process, right from the time a consignment docks, up to the time it’s handed to the importer.

Importers go through hell at the Port in their quest to clear cargo. Many are often compelled to bribe during the processing of import document especially in the notorious “Long Room” building in Mombasa, where money speaks.

Clearing and forwarding agents often work in cohort with Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (KBS) personnel to intentionally delay the clearance process by demanding bribes.

The tragedy is: If an importer fails to bribe, the documentation process can be intentionally delayed to trigger a last-minute rash to beat the grace period allowed for clearance. At this point, the importer is desperate and can bribe to avoid the accrual of demurrage on the cargo which increases daily after the expiry of the grace period.

These are the challenges President Uhuru and his Jubilee government should address urgently because it demoralizes all business people across the board. Picking a single item to entice Kenyans in the Diaspora was mere a PR stunt to spur his political base abroad.

Government double standards
On over-age vehicles, Kenyans are tired of double standards in the application of the law. If the over-age vehicles former Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey cleared in 2011, are still running on Kenyan roads, why can’t the law be scrapped all together?

Giving a free-hand to the ruling elite who violate the law; only to punish the “small guys” s a great injustice. Our laws are meant to protect the interests of all citizens irrespective of their class or status.

Worse still, there are many luxurious left-hand vehicles on the Kenyan roads; often owned by famous people, thereby amplifying the culture of double-standards in the country. One wonders how these vehicles are cleared at the port of Mombasa.

Authenticating road-worthiness on imported vehicles
On road worthiness, all vehicles imported must have a detailed inspection report from the country of origin. Secondly, we need to have standby local inspectors to authenticate what is stipulated in the foreign inspection report.

 If a vehicle is found to be unroadworthy, the importer should be compelled to do necessary repairs under strict supervision of the ministry of transport before the vehicle is registered and allowed to run on Kenyans roads. If the vehicle fails to meet the standards of road-worthiness, the government should decline registration and declare it as a write-off. The owner can be advised to sell it as salvage for spare parts.  

Bureaucracy in a developing country kills economy
By and large, we need more automobiles on our roads to consume our oil inTurkana. Vehicle owner will pay road levies, buy insurance premiums and spare parts, employ mechanics and drivers as well as transporting goods and services within Kenya and the surrounding regions. All these will improve revenue collection to boost Kenya’s economy.

We are behind in research; behind in manufacturing; and behind in technology. Its good economics when a developing country gives room for local and foreign investors to trade in an environment of less bureaucracy and more flexibility in the exchange of goods and services.

It beats no logic when a developing country is engaged in too much bureaucracy when doing business. After all, is Kenya better than Nigeria, which has fewer restrictions on the vehicles they import? Our western neighbour-Uganda does not have restrictions on automobile importation yet, they have the most organized public transport system in East Africa.

We are on low ebb economically; struggling to be at par with the emerging economies like: Hong Kong and Singapore. We can’t even manufacture a needle; leave alone a bicycle tube yet, the government want us to import newer vehicles and a total ban on left- hand vehicles into the country.

Kenya is down there; decades away to even compete with the industrialized world like Japan, US, France and Germany. For me, if it’s drivable from Kilindini Port to Busia, it’s good.


Monday, August 4, 2014

JOMO KENYATTA AND LAND BUYING COMPANIES

SOME USEFUL INSIGHTS TO LAND GRABBING IN POST INDEPENDENCE KENYA

In the immediate post-independence era, the moment, the Seroneys and Ogingas started crying foul, and their sentiments went unheard,then this is the time Kenya started entering a dangerous phase of its socio-political path that lasts to date.

The political leadership of Kenya began carving out into two distinct groups. The pro-Kenyatta land beneficiaries, sycophants and apologists where Tom Mboya, Daniel Moi, Paul Ngei and others trooped towards,….and another force RESISTING the greedy post-Independence governance by Kenyatta which was led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, and included several former KADU operatives like Ronald Ngala, Jean Marie Seroney, Masinde Muliro, Martin Shikuku and others.

Kenyatta soldiered on with his grabbing. He concurrently went ahead with the help of Tom Mboya to change the constitution to give immense imperial powers to the Presidency. He further began using such powers to allocate more land to his cronies and sycophants. His salivating appetite for Rift Valley land largely motivated his choice of Rift Valley natives as Vice President after Oginga Odinga.

First he chose a Maasai, Joseph Murumbi, who read the scheme of land-betrayal on his people and resigned in a huff, then Kenyatta selected Daniel Arap Moi, a Tugen not drawn in the Nandi and Kipsigis land battles, as his next loyal VP. He then descended upon grabbing Rift Valley and Coastal land in a business as usual and “mtafanya nini” attitude that his SON is trying to emulate today.

Kenyatta cronies including Mbiyu Koinange, Njoroge Mungai and others devised a clever scheme to further benefit themselves from the land transferred from the colonialists. They formed land buying companies through loans which were actually funded with tax-payer money. At the height of land buying companies, most of the power brokers acquired huge chunks of land at the expense of the landless who were meant to be the initial beneficiaries of the scheme.
By 1971, more than 60 % large-scale farms around Nakuru and 40% of small scale settler farms, was given to the Kikuyu, who fared very well from this arrangement, at the expense of other Kenyan communities.
Another scholar noted that “Using the political and economic leverage available to them during the Kenyatta regime, the Kikuyu, took advantage of the situation and formed many land-buying companies. These companies would, throughout the 1960s and 1970s, facilitate the settlement of hundreds of thousands of Kikuyu in the Rift Valley,” wrote Walter Oyugi in Politicised Ethnic Conflict in Kenya: A Periodic Phenomenon.

In 1969, Jean Marie Seroney, a leading Nandi politician and MP, issued the Nandi Hills Declaration, laying claim to all settlement land in the district for the Nandi. His demands went unheeded. Aping the British Kenyatta government used a policy of divide-and-rule to neutralise such opposition by parcelling out land to other ethnic groups and thus winning their allegiance. Daniel arap Moi, the then Tugen vice-president was allocated the settler farms of the Lembus Forest and the Essageri Salient to divide the Tugen from the Nandi like Seroney.

Most of the power brokers in the Kenyatta regime who formed land-buying companies established huge farms in the Rift Valley either jointly or on their own. They included Njenga Karume, the then Chairman of Gema Holdings, who acquired 20,000 acres in Molo where he is growing tea, coffee, pyrethrum and potatoes and 16,000 acres in Naivasha.

G.G.KARIUKI acquired his 5,000 acres at Rumuruti, Laikipia Division, while former Attoney-General Charles Njonjo bought into the 100,000 acre Solio Ranch. Don’t forget, grabbing of settler land in Central by many colonial collaborators, at the expense of the Mau Mau fighters, was part of the scheme.

Senior Chief Munyinge from Muiga took 400 acres. Initially, senior chief Munyinge was allocated only 70 acres but with time he managed to acquire 330 more acres.

Mwai Kibaki acquired 20,000 acres in Nanyuki, Former MP Munene Kairu has 32,000 acres at Rumuruti. Mr Isaiah Mathenge, the former powerful Provincial Commissioner under Kenyatta and an MP under Moi, is arguably the largest land owner in Nyeri municipality.
He owns Seremwai Estate, which is 10,000 acres. Kibaki’s friend, Kim Ngatende, a former government engineer, has 500 acres too. Mathenge also owns—jointly with former Provincial Commissioner Lukas Daudi Galgalo—the 10, 000-acre Manyagalo Ranch in Meru.

Back in Rift Valley, as Jaramogi and the rest of Kenyans were saying, Not Yet Uhuru, it was land grabbing business as usual. Land-buying companies were heisting big. There result was big acquisitions, for instance, Munyeki Farm—which stands for Murang’a, Nyeri, Kiambu – (4,000 acres), Wamuini Farm (6,000 acres), Amuka Farm (2,000 acres), Gituaraba Farm and Githatha Farm (1,000 acres each) and GEMA Holdings 12,000 acres. A few of them are being utilized, today with the owners growing various crops ranging from coffee, tea, maize and dairy keeping.

The other big farms include Chepchomo Farm (18, 000 acres), owned by the former Provincial Commissioner Ishmael Chelang’a. The family of the late Peter Kinyanjui, who was a close friend of President Mwai Kibaki and a former DP Chairman in Trans Nzoia between 1998 and 1999 owns 1,800 acres.

In Nakuru, several politically connected individuals have acquired many acres of prime land within the town—they include lawyer Mutula Kilonzo, who owns an 800-acre farm for dairy farming. The immediate former Auditor General, D S Njoroge, owns 500 acres, while Biwott’s Canadian son-in-law & co-owner of Safaricom (Mobitelea) a Mr. Charles, boasts a 100-acre piece where he is growing roses.

D. S. Njoroge also owns the extensive Kelelwa Ranch in Koibatek, which is less than 10km from Kabarak, where he rears cattle and goats. The 10,000 acre Gitomwa Farm—acronym for Gichuru, Tony and Mwaura—is owned by the family of the former Kenya Power and Lighting Company Limited (KPLC) managing director, Samuel Gichuru. Tony and Mwaura are his sons.

Another 10,000 acre farm in Mau Narok belongs to the family of the late Mbiyu Koinange, Kenyatta’s side-kick and powerful minister of state in the Office of the President. His Muthera Farm (4,000ha) is leased to different people to grow wheat, while a group of squatters is demanding a piece of it. The owners are yet to clear the Sh7 million Settlement Transfer Fund loan.

Ford-People leader Simeon Nyachae’s Kabansora Holdings owns 4,000ha in the area. Former Rongai MP Willy Komen’s family owns 10,000 acres — 5,000ha adjacent to Moi’s Kabarak Farm and another 4,800ha near Ngata in Njoro.

Coast Province was not spared. Kenyatta family owns almost 15% the prime resort land in the province, besides a huge sisal plantation spanning both Taita and Taveta districts, safely watched by his son-in-law and former MP Marsden Madoka, and another close friend to Uhuru Kenyatta, and a former Minister in Kibaki’s Government, and A TNA MP,Naomi Shaban.