“The Muranga Integrated Development Day, incorporating the Muranga Investments Cooperative and Murang’a Child Can are pace setters.Â Despite the problems the leadership is going through, the amount of talent and capacity the county has put together indicate something worth looking forward to” -Raila Odinga.
At the recent devolution conference in Kisumu, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga singled out Murang’a County development plan for praise, noting that the success of the county’s twin projectsÂ Murang’a Integrated Development Day andÂ Muranga Child CanÂ is part the great devolution story.
The accolades by the premier, according to sources close to governor Mwangi wa Iria, have heightened the fight to wrestle the Governor from the county’s top seat. In the mix is Jamleck Kamau. Behind him is President Uhuru Kenyatta. This is a story that stretches way before 2013 elections.
Wa Iria was approached by surrogates of President Uhuru, then candidate for presidency, not to run for the gubernatorial position and wait for appointment in Uhuru regime as cabinet secretary. He declined.
Since then, the relationship between the him and President Uhuru deteriorated to an extent where the Governor is among the least Mt. Kenya leaders who meet the President. Since the year begun, the two leaders have barely met. This is a story about Milk.
The Murang’a investments cooperative, dubbed shillingi kwa shillingi, has brought together over 200 cooperatives. With assistance from county government, under Wa Iria, Uhuru’s Brookside Dairies Ltd. was forced to increase its milk buying prize from Ksh 15 a litre to Ksh 35 a litre.
What happened is that under Wa Iria, the Murang’a County Creameries increased its milk buying prize to at least Ksh 35. Brookside, which had monopolized milk business in the county and at throw away prices (between Ksh 10 and 15 a litre) found itself having to buy milk at the county rate.
Wa Iria made it illegal to sell milk to any entity at less than sh 35. Also, most of the milk farmers had joined wa Iria’s multi-billion county sacco, making it impossible to engage individual milk sellers.
Effectively, Wa Iria, whose economic ideologies are said to be more pro-poor and socialist, locked out the very embodiment of vulture capitalism in Mt. Kenya region, Brookside Dairies. The owner, one Uhuru Kenyatta, who also happened to be the President of Kenya, never forgave him. But there is more.
Muranga is a hilly county. Over 30% of land mass is occupied by colonial era fruit and flower companies. These companies have links to the first family and the ruling elites of Jomo Kenyatta era. Wa Iria does not belong to this nobility. He is a third generation Kenyan who succeeded through sweat and pluck and pool. Like many of his peers, he feels strongly that Murang’a County is not yet uhuru, some 50 years after Mau Mau war over land, dignity and livelihood.
Like many other counties across the county; Murang’a is just starting to develop. sh 100 million for school funds annually, large scale irrigation, an eye, dental and cancer centre under construction. Avocado that used to sell at 2 shillings now trade at Ksh 10, with ready market. Three million coffee seedlings. Some 5000Km of feeder roads graded, levelled and gravelled.
But land is an issue, in fact, the very issue. This is a story about land tenure systems which continue to impoverish swathes of natives, many who descended directly from Mau Mau families!
Those close to Wa Iria reveal that he is not keen in renewing the leases of the two companies which occupy over 30% of productive land in Murang’a County – Delmonte and Kakuzi – and has alternative economic plans on the lands that their fruit and flower farms currently occupy.
His people are also telling him to cut links with the companies. The contribution of Del Monte and Kakuzi to the lives of Murang’a people cannot fill an A4 page. But uprooting the two companies is uprooting the who-is-who in Kenya’s capitalist food-chain.Â The privileged elite of Murang’a, with their old money, and high connections, are on his case. This is a story about classical Marxism – the enduring conflict over ownership of factors of productionÂ between bourgeoisies and proletariats.
Today, Wa Iria moved to court to stop arrest over claims he falsified nomination documents to qualify for elections as governor. However, the same forces have made it appear he is being caged for corruption, or swindling of county funds, as is happening in Kisumu.
This is a story that’s just beginning. . .