William Ruto was in Wajir selling his Mitumba politics in response to Raila’s speech at the launch of the Azimio Manifesto where he said his government will promote manufacturing in Kenya, in all sectors including the country’s textile industry which is pretty dead as we speak.
Ruto was trying to project himself as the guy who will protect the mitumba industry and workers. The same Ruto gave a speech just a few days ago where he claimed his government wants to revive the textile industry in Kenya and raged against mitumba business as killing Kenyan manufacturing.
But when you are Ruto you can turn yourself into a mitumba and be a new pair of pants to anybody anytime and forget what you did or said yesterday.
Here is the problem for Ruto and UDA. Raila and Azimio came up with his manifesto in full exactly two months to the election date. UDA has no such thing available to Kenyans to see what their government will strive to do for the nation.
Now Ruto has to respond to Azimio Manifesto and he cannot deal with the substance of that published document which is now available to Kenyans of all walks of life anywhere in the media.
So Ruto had to jump on the Mitumba issue to try to stay relevant in the political discourse for the country’s next government come August 9, 2022.
So he goes to Mandera and him and Duale try to hang on to some shukas as the Mitumba that Raila will destroy. Nonsense.
Here is the plan for Ruto. When UDA releases its manifesto on June 30, 2022, just one month before the election he can copy and paste everything in the Azimio Manifesto and then set up a Mitumba show at his launch.
The order from Ruto should be that everybody coming to the UDA Manifesto event must wear mitumba clothes. That has to be verified at the entrance. Then hold the event at Kasarani or Nyayo stadium on one condition. Outside the entrance to the event, there should be hundreds if not thousands of mitumba dealers selling their wear.
In fact, it would be great if Ruto, Gachagua, Waiguru, and others are seen trying to wear the mitumba clothes and buying them not just for themselves but for their sons and daughters. That would be wonderful. Wouldn’t it. And by the way how many mitumba clothes do Ruto and his family wear and keep at home. Probably none. These folks are wearing designer clothes from Italy, France, and Qatar. They can afford it with your money that they grab every day.
So Ruto should do everything in his power to promote mitumba clothes and also buy and wear them.
It is like telling Kenyans to go and buy mitumba milk while they get milk from their cows at home. Luckily for Kenyans, there is no mitumba milk so we still need our cows to get milk as a big part of our food system.
You can get mitumba meat though when your neighbour kills that sick cow or bull and can sell you the food cheaply. Big boys like Ruto get direct orders from first-class butcheries. Some of them order food from abroad because they don’t trust our food system.
When I was growing up some forty years ago our country had a booming textile industry. It was based on cotton and sisal grown by local folks.
My family was big on growing cotton. And then we had to pick it, pack it up, and take it to the market. That is how we got money for school. That was from the textile industry.
Then we had sisal. Nobody actually grows sisal in my home area but we use it for fencing so every home has sisal all over. Nobody needs sisal, so you plant it and it just grows. Then you take the small ones and plant them and you have a sisal farm.
Nobody paid attention to sisal more than my uncle Mawere Nyambara. It was his full-time business and he built some magnificent real estate properties from it.
By the way, Mawere Nyambara is one of the geniuses I have ever met in my life. He never went to formal school even for one day and he was doing serious business in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. He made millions doing his work. He told me since I went to school and was studying accounting I do the math and he will do the thinking. It worked very well for his business and for both of us.
When the farming was over for food crops that is when the local folks turned to sisal. It was mainly for young people. You have to cut the sisal leaves and dry them for a few days then we had local machines to bring the sisal fibre out and that is what you sell.
There are all sorts of machines from local types to more complicated ones.
Sisal plants had two very valuable uses. The pole from it is for building house roofs. But the fibre is for making clothes and that is where my uncle Nyambara came in. He had huge trucks to buy cotton fibres from everywhere and I was his bookkeeper while in college. So we fill the trucks in a few days and take the load to Kisumu to the textile manufacturers and he got paid very good.
That is Kenya in the 1970s and 80s emerging as an industrial center to produce textiles and clothes and we were doing great. Now when Raila talks about reviving the textile industry he is a sinner as far as Ruto is concerned because of votes. Nobody is supposed to give a damn about the country.
Read: Azimio Manifesto: What is in it for Kenyans
And yes, nobody is going to ban Mitumba in Kenya but let’s stop cheap lies and wrongheaded economics.
A country that cannot produce and manufacture things is dead economically. We produce milk because we can’t mitumba it and we are doing just fine. We make our own foods because there is no mitumba food and we doing good.
I like to buy my mitumba clothes and that is fine but I also want our textile industry to get back on its feet for the sake of the country and the economy. What is wrong with that?
And here is the real shocker. Ruto and his team all wear those freshly designed and tailored yellow uniforms. Which Mitumba shop provides those uniforms.
So they want their uniforms, they get their fabrics imported and tailored for them to dance in. But the rest of the country cannot have textiles and produce fabrics to make clothing and grow the economy. That is what really sucks with this kind of politics. Kenyans have to reject this hypocrisy and double talk from opportunists who want to keep the country in their pockets.
The thing with the textile industry is that we do not have to go back to KICOMI and RIVATEX big industry textile business.
We are going to need smaller textile manufacturing activities where a group of counties get together and start cotton production using new farming methods then team together and set up a textile manufacturing outfit with the help of the national government. There are many investors who would put money into those kinds of economic activities.
One thing that came out of the Azimio Manifesto that Kenyans need to pay very keen attention to is how to promote food processing in the country. That is really killing our economy. We produce so much food and fruits and a lot of that get wasted and thrown away because we can’t process to make the food durable and useful for a long period of time.
We produce millions of tons of fruits and we drink coloured water with fake fruit taste from manufacturers. We produce so much mangoes that when they are ready they are sold in bags for peanuts because they are about to go to waste. Same with oranges and bananas.
We can process those mangoes into juice and sell them all over the country and across the world. You can dry them and export them everywhere. People need those dried fruits around the world. Kenyans don’t even tend to their fruit trees because they are valueless. They are pretty much part of our wildlife.
The only cabinet secretary who has been doing something about manufacturing and food processing in Kenya today is Eugene Wamalwa. I saw him open a sweet potatoe processing plant in Kisii. It looked very good. They have another one in Migori today. He also opened a dairy processing plant in North Eastern Kenya. Kivutha Kibwana put up a good mango processing plant in his county.
Those are the kind of things we have to do instead of fighting about mitumba.
At the Coast, they throw away tons of millions of fruits like mangoes which they just can’t use. And then we drink mitumba juice made from water and coloring. That is just damn and can be avoided for the better of our country.
Adongo Ogony is a Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada