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President Ruto back to the Galana Kulalu Nightmare for Kenyans

11 mins read
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Kenyans know they are in real problems of food security ever in the country when President Ruto runs back to wander around at the Galana Kulalu, promising the country that he is about to start major food production in a stalled project where he has been a million times since it was launched in 2014.

It seems when there is nothing else for Kenyan leaders to do to show Kenyans that they are serious about food security, they run to the vast land and admire the 1.7million acres owned by the government through AFC and make bogus promises which they know they cannot manage.

They get the sound bites and the now regular Kenya Star [PHOTOS] carpeted all over and it is a good day’s work.

The Galana Kulalu project with its huge land is expected to cost $ 5,267,000,000 to complete. That is 5 billion US dollars and my calculator is not good enough to figure out how much that is in Kenya shillings. You do the math.

What my calculator can do easily is tell you how much Kenyan taxpayer money has already been lost through corruption and all sorts of mischief in this big white elephant called the Galana Kulalu project.

In 2017, the then contractor Green Arava an Israeli company brought by the Kenya government to build the project in 2014 walked out of their contract claiming they were having problems with the National Irrigation Board and the government.

By that time Arava company had already collected Shs. 5.9 billion which was the budget to complete 10,000 acres as a model farm and then hand it over to the private sector to develop 200,000 acres initially before expanding it to cover 1 million acres.

As of that time, it was estimated that Kenya was losing a total of Shs. 7.2 billion on the project, meaning the rest was eaten by the government folks and the Galana Kulalu was back to square one.

In several documents seen by a local daily, Green Arava accused NIB of failing to honor requests for payments before threatening to stop any further work until all its requests for payments are addressed.

On the other hand, NIB accuses the contractor of going rogue, failing to respond to numerous letters, demobilizing from the construction site contrary to contractual obligations, and embarking on a go-slow.

“We have reached a point of no return. We cannot continue with more payments for work whose progress we are not pleased with. We have written to the National Treasury so that they can advise on a way forward,” Charles Muasya, the head of design and planning of irrigation projects at the National Irrigation Board stated.

Following the sour relations between the parties involved, the NIB drafted a letter to the National Treasury and the Attorney General asking for intervention.

“We have resolved to disengage with Green Arava. Consequently, we need guidance if the unspent funds can be given to another contractor to complete the works. As we wait for guidance, we will continue to charge the contractor Ksh10,000 per day as liquidated damage for failure to complete the project in time,” Mr Muasya noted.

The craziest thing is that Ruto’s announcement today while wandering around on the huge farm takes Kenya back to 2014.

Ruto wants to develop the same 10,000 acres model farm and then the rest of the work goes to the private sector. Kenyans under the same Ruto as the DP have already spent Shs. 7.2 billion to develop the same piece of a model farm. Does the government need another Shs. 7.2 billion to throw around and then start again in 2027 after another election?

And as usual, the Ruto’s statement is incoherent and vague.

In a statement on Tuesday, the head of state said the 10,000 acres will instead be worked on to produce maize, beginning February 2023.

“After extensive tour, with county/Gok leaders, of Galana/Kulalu national food security project today, I direct as follows: the planned subdivision into settlement parcels is revoked/canceled: private/Gok(NIA) PPP to work on the ready 10,000 to produce starting with maize in February,” Ruto said.

He said the land will be used to prepare for maize production under the Public-Private-Partnership in the next six months. This big White Elephant is probably doomed to stay like it is because there are no plans to fix it, just bush-side announcements by Ruto for media consumption.

During this period, the government will construct a dam to help with the irrigation of more land, the President directed.

“The next 10,000 acres be prepared for production in 6 months under PPP: GoK to construct a dam beginning April to bring another 350,000 acres under production: Gok to work out a model for PPP food production in the 350k acres to be ready in 6 months. All actors are to execute timeously.”

First Ruto claims it will be “Private/Gok (NIA) PPP”. Who are these private firms involved in the Public-Private-Partnership?

Is this just fantasy or do they have their usual cartels ready to jump in contribute no money and take the 10,000 acres after public money has been used to develop them if that ever happens? A Public -Private Partnership can only be viable if Kenyans know the specific private companies involved and how much money they are bringing in and it should be 50:50.

Second, Ruto says with a straight face that production at the Galana project starts in February 2023 and the government will build a dam in six months to make that happen and build another dam starting April 2023 and within six months that dam will help put 350,000 acres under food production.

Remember the Arror Kimwarer Dam which sucked Kshs. 65 billion and collapsed after massive looting by some of William Ruto’s friends whom he chose for cabinet positions. Do we want to start that process all over again promising dams to be built in 6 months? Excuse me.

Hallucinations aside, Kenya could not build dams in Ruto’s own backyard for years after more than Shs. 65 billion had been allocated to them and now Ruto wants to build dams to cultivate 350,000 acres of land in six months!

I don’t think it is fair for the president to insult the intelligence of 44 million Kenyans. That should be a sin and Bwana Asifiwe should not do that. Tell Kenyans the truth which is that Kenya does not know what to do with that 1.7 million acre of arable land and the matter needs to be taken back to the table so that as a country we can come up with fresh plans to fix that nightmare in Galana Kulalu project.

It is unforgivable that we have 1.7 million acres of arable land sitting next to Tana river and Kenyans are starving and now the government wants to import GMO crap to feed the citizens when that land is unused and unusable at the moment.

With irrigation done, that land needs to be subdivided for Kenyan farmers (not millionaire politicians) to buy and farm it. If we do that we can produce enough food there to feed the country in a few years. If the government continues with its simplistic daydreams then the Galana Kulalu project will remain dead as it is and a source for the big boys to keep sucking taxpayer money in there and keep stealing most of it. The choice is for President Ruto to make.

President Ruto’s plan looks like it is designed to figure out how to hand over that 1.7 million acres of land to his rich friends under some vague private sector takeover of the land. It is important to note that Ruto today canceled the plan to subdivide the land into settlements of 10,000 acres each to allow ordinary Kenyans to settle as farmers in each block.

The only way regular Kenyan farmers can get to that farm is to have block settlements instead of individual farmers buying it. Only the super-rich can individually buy thousands of acres there and that seems to be the plan Ruto has in mind and why he hurriedly had to cancel the settlement plan and cheat Kenyans that the Galana Kulalu project will be producing food in six months.

Adongo Ogony is a Kenyan Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada

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