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The politics of Kenya Seed privatisation – Weekly Citizen

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Maize farmers in the North Rift contracted to plant seed from Kenya Seed Company have hailed the government for the appointment of a new managing director on an acting capacity. The farmers said in a statement that the delay by the government to appoint other directors was negatively impacting on the smooth running of the state corporation and told Agriculture CS Peter Munya to hasten the process. Speaking to Weekly Citizen at the Agricultural Show of Kenya grounds in Kitale, the seed farmers expressed optimism that the government’s move to appoint a new managing director will motivate growers of seed. The farmers through their representative Henry Wakasiaka faulted cartels for ruining the state corporation which is being treated as a private entity. “Kenya Seed is a totally stateowned company which shouldn’t be seen as a private entity the way it was being run when Nathaniel arap Tum was MD. That was a bad era where theft was commandment number one,” he said. Wakasiaka says the new plot to transfer this critical public asset to private control was hatched recently with Tum vouching for his son to take over as managing director.

Nathaniel Arap Tum

Farmers are opposing the planned return of Tum family at Kenya Seed Company. During Tum notorious reign, Kenya Seed was badly looted, tribalism took centre stage with fictitious payments and sell of shares crippling operations. Fire gutted stores and seed farms. The farmers say it is in bad test for the company to operate without the board which has not been in existence even after some of the members tenure expired. “This is the highest height of impunity on the side of the government through the cabinet secretary for Agriculture to delay appointments of management and board of the company,” Wakasiaka said. The farmers wondered from where Tum got the temerity to collude and go ahead to plan for a retake over and conversion of the state owned corporation to a private company. “Tum is leaving no chances in frantic efforts to transfer Kenya Seed Company back to private ownership like he tried the same in 1999,” he added. Farmers have made new demands that a new board of management be put in place to work with the new acting managing director Fred Oloibe who was recently appointed to replace Azaria Soy. The farmers have warned that colluding and conniving to retaking over of the state corporation into private ownership is suicidal and told Tum off. “Investigators must unravel the truth and tell us how some people got majority shares,” said a farmer on condition of anonymity.

Fred Oloibe

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They said it was foolhardy for the government to have allowed privileged and new shareholders to acquire shares at a price substantially below their market value. Citing the incorrect procedure used to conduct a valuation of the shares before new ones are issued, the farmers have asked the government to investigate and take action against anyone who will be found culpable. The enraged farmers have demanded that former Agriculture minister Kipruto arap Kirwa, former permanent secretary to the Treasury, Mwaghazi Mwachofi and Richard Leakey who objected to the transaction be called to give their views. “The whole privatisation process that was overseen by the management was dogged by conflict of interest and should immediately be rescinded,” a bitter farmer said. Centre for Justice and Peace Programme director Bonnie Wanyoike accused the company management of ignoring government directives and proceeding to issue a prospectus for private placement of the shares. Wanyoike said since the Agricultural Development Corporation which is the single largest shareholder, strongly opposed the transaction and those who went ahead to issue shares should be made to pay heavily for the mistakes.

Azariah Soy

“Tum and his team of sycophants must be forced to return each and every cent they have stolen from the public entity,” a seed grower said. Another farmer, James Sitati, said the government needed to weed out a tribal notion and indeed erase the image of the company tagging of a tribal seed company. “The notion that Kenya seed is a purely tribal seed company with all plum positions being reserved for members of a particular tribe must be erased,” a farmer said. A director William Kundu who is a staunch ally of Tum said the company is state-owned and said he was not aware of plans to privatise it. “Kenya Seed has been a state corporation from the time Mwai Kibaki came to power and that was the time the government decided to take over the running of the company,” he said. Kundu added that the Court of Appeal ruled that the Kenya Seed Company belonged to the state through a Court of Appeal ruling of 2005 and saw no need of what he termed as “shadow boxing”. Efforts to reach Tum to respond were fruitless as he engaged in a hide and seek game of diverting each call. The immediate former managing director Azaria Soy said he did not understand why some people could wake up and restart the issue of whether it was right or not to discuss whether or not the company was earmarked for a return to a private entity.

Kipruto Arap Kirwa

Kwanza MP Ferdinand Wanyonyi said that the transaction that was made to make the company go private before the government took it back was blatantly irregular and should not be allowed again. “The director of Criminal Investigations, Ethics and AntiCorruption and Director Public Prosecution need to investigate and arraign before court anyone who will be found in this malpractice,” he added. Political analyst Nicholas Wamalwa says Kenya Seed Company is not a big deal and people need not waste their time on the largest seed producer in the country whose past management had ignored farmers. Wamalwa is in the race for the Kwanza parliamentary seat. “With the new MD on board, we demand that all these anomalies are brought to an end or we petition the relocation of the facility to another county and not Trans Nzoia,” Wamalwa said. Centre for the Restoration of Human Rights and Democracy executive director Kefa Were asked the government to investigate the matter and bring to an end any violations at the giant seed company. Following Soi exit several top managers are lobbying to be appointed as managing director. They include the acting MD Fred Oloiebe and marketing manager Samy Chepsiror. Others include Elgon Down Farm manager Hosea Sirma, Tanzania-based general manager Francis Mwaura and finance director a Mr Thuo. Also mentioned is senior coporate manager Jane Gitau and of course Tum’s son now based at Simlaw office, Nairobi as incharge.



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