Issued in Nairobi on Friday 12 June 2020
- We assembled here this morning as leaders from Western Kenya, with a few of our friends from other parts of our country, in what we purpose to be a regular meeting of leadership minds. In these meetings, we purpose to compare notes and thoughts on various aspects of our people’s lives. We will particularly focus on the unfolding character of governance and of the political economy in country – and its implications for everybody. Without any apologies, we will also significantly ask what they mean for our region.
- Yesterday, 11 June 2020, was budget day. The honorable Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Mr. Ukur Yatan, gave the financial estimates for the period 2020-2021. He gave the way forward for the political economy in the coming days. We will subject the budget speech to further and deeper scrutiny. We will make our deeper pronouncements on it in the coming days. For now, however, we want to raise the red flag on the marginalization in the budget, for the Western Kenya economy – and indeed the entire Lake Basin Regional economy.
- We note with profound concern that the sugar industry, that has been the mainstay of our economy in Western Kenya, remains marginalized. Not a single word of hope has been given to the sugar farmer and to all those whose lives and livelihoods have been defined around the sugar industry – from Awendo to Nzoia and from Mumias to Ramisi. We are left wondering whether this is a factor of the State giving up on the industry, or is it erroneous human omission, or deliberate marginalization? Whatever the case, this must be corrected immediately. We call upon Parliament to attend to this concern.
- We also note that nothing that could imbue us with hope has been said about fishing and fisheries. The Government has previously foregrounded marine life as the next frontier of economic investment and growth. We, the leaders from Western Kenya, would like to fully understand what the blue economy should mean for the people of Western Kenya and the entire Lake Region.
- Marginalization of entire populations in the country continues to be a matter of profound concern to us. This is not just about our Western Kenya region, but other regions too, including marginalization of the urban poor throughout the country. We take note, for example, that while the Health Sector in the budget has taken a formidable allocation of funds, the mainstay in this budget is focused on the Nairobi Metropolitan Area. While we appreciate the fact that this is the epicenter of the new coronavirus menace, we also wish to state that the Nairobi Metropolitan Area is not Kenya. Let all Kenyans benefit from equitable budgetary allocations in all sectors.
- We also remain concerned about the plight of farmers and pastoralists. In recent years, farmers have had very little to motivate them. They have had serious challenges with farm inputs and with markets for their produce. It is big irony that the country sometimes goes through waves of staple food shortages, while farmers are lumbered with staples that they cannot sell, due to terribly low production prices, set by the state. This matter requires urgent addressing.
- Meanwhile, Uganda remains Kenya’s foremost business partner in our region – and indeed one of the foremost globally. Again it’s a matter of great irony that the communities living adjacent to the Kenya Uganda border are among those who benefit least from the cross border trade between the two countries. This is true all the way from the Nyanza Lake Basin Region, all the way to the greater Mount Elgon Region. This anomaly is a factor of the underdeveloped economy in the Lake Basin, the North Rift and the Mount Elgon Regions. A deliberate blueprint to revamp the regional economy, all the way from the Central Rift Valley, the North and South Rift, the Lake Basin and Western Kenya, is of paramount urgency. In the coming days, we are going to push hard for this, both at the level of the National Government and Devolved Government.
- We are concerned about the state of overcrowding of trucks at the Kenya Uganda border. If the cause is fear of the new coronavirus disease, then our people who live adjacent to the border have every reason to be very afraid. The possibility of a terrible outbreak of the covid-19 disease in Western Kenya is very real. We call upon the Kenya Government to move swiftly to decongest the affected border points. This must be a matter of priority. We will closely monitor the developments and will not hesitate to address them again, should the situation persist.
- Meanwhile we remain concerned that the rehabilitation of the metre gauge railway from Nairobi to the Uganda border has remained a singsong. If this railway were functional, it would ease some of the pressure on road transport of heavy goods. It would also decongest the roads and make them less accident prone. We call for expedited action here. Indeed, the region must also benefit from the extended Standard Gauge Railway. National resources must serve the entire nation.