NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 15 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Thursday defended himself against allegations that he was involved in underhand dealings regarding the maize crisis.,
The PM who spoke at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport upon arrival from a five -day official visit to India said he stopped the licensing of a second grain handling facility at the port of Mombasa last year, as the existing facility was underutilised.
"That issue has been discussed severally (sic). I have seen figures that convinced me at the time that the project was not viable. The issue is that we are have a grain handling facility which at the moment is operating at 48 percent handling capacity,” he said. “The issue is not the capacity to handle grain the issue is the issue of storage and how fast the grain is cleared form the warehouses of the handler."
Mr Odinga said the move was not to blame for the current grain shortage in the country as has been alleged by Kangundo MP Johnstone Muthama.
"Even if you license the construction of a second bulk grain holding facility, how long will that take?” he posed.
The Premier said the government had the responsibility to ensure all its people were fed and proposed the adoption of a system where special shops run by special interest groups would distribute subsidised food to the poor.
He said the concept had worked well in India where the government had identified women groups, youth groups and disabled groups to make food accessible to the people.
"What I have seen in India has convinced that the government needs to continue to intervene in order to reduce the price of food. There is also need to target the most affected groups of people in the society," he added.
He also expressed concern on rising graft scandals in the country and promised to be at the forefront in the fight against graft in government.
Said Mr Odinga: "I can’t condone corruption and if there is any corruption in fuel distribution or in government, it must be investigated and dealt with properly."
The Premier was in India to represent Kenya at the 4th Global Investors’ Summit in Ahmedabad.