The political blame game over the ongoing drought has gone a notch higher after the Opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) hit out as Deputy President William Ruto over his remarks that no one had succumbed to hunger related causes.
DP Ruto came under a barrage of criticism from the party’s lawmakers, who claimed there is a deliberate attempt by the government to hide the truth from Kenyans on the full extent of the hunger situation.
Led by National Assembly Minority leader, John Mbadi (Suba South) the lawmakers also took issue with a decision to sack chiefs who raised the death alarm in their regions, arguing that the administrators ‘were only doing their work.
“We are particularly appalled by the recent denials and attempts by the deputy President to con lying to Kenyans that everything is fine and there is no cause for alarm. We are not buying this. By saying that news that people have died is ‘fake’ news, yet government officials on the ground are confirming the same as true is very careless, irresponsible and insensitive,” the MPs aid in a statement read by Junet Mohammed (Suna East).
“We have heard of junior government officials being punished for revealing the true situation on the ground. This is very unfortunate. We want to urge people to stop this intimidation and targeted harassment and focus on alleviating the suffering of the people in these regions,” the statement added.
Others at the press conference held at parliament buildings were Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), Lillian Gogo (Rangwe), Sam Atandi (Alego), Anthony Oluoch (Mathare), Shakeel Shabbir (Kisumu East), Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini), Dan Maanzo (Makueni) and Rashid Kassim (Wajir East).
Images of emaciated people who can barely stand have gone viral this week, with the media reporting that more than twenty people have succumbed to hunger related causes in several parts of the country.
The deaths are said to have occurred in Baringo and Turkana counties.
Other areas affected are Samburu, Marsabit, Garissa, Isiolo, Mandera, Wajir, Baringo, Kilifi, Tana River, West Pokot, Makueni, Kajiado and Kwale.
The government has already begin sending relief to the affected areas.
This week, the DP, while addressing an Inter-professional Summit in Mombasa termed reports of drought related deaths ‘fake’, saying the situation was under control.
“There is a lot of fake news about what is happening. We have been told that 11 people have died but that is not true. No one has died as a result of the drought and we are working round the clock to ensure that no one dies of hunger,” said Mr. Ruto.
He was backed by Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa who said there is no proof that people had succumbed to hunger.
Mr Mbadi said the DP had misread the mood of the republic, and wondered ‘if Kenyans are specimen that should die’ before the government can act on their plight.
“Kenyans are very angry and w ear joining them in their anger. But what is most annoying are statements from the DP that people are not dying. Does he think Kenyans are specimen to be placed in some laboratory so that they can be seen to be dying? This is not fake news, these r real pictures. We have a DP who frequently misjudges public opinion,” said Mr. Mbadi.
Mr. Wamalwa termed it ‘embarrassing’ that the government has failed to provide food to its people.
“The government should supply nutritional supplement to those affected,” said Mrs. Gogo.
The lawmakers spoke even as leaders from across the affected regions continued appealing for relief food for those affected.
Chair of the National Assembly Committee on agriculture, Adan Haji, asked the government for emergency interventions in Mandera South constituency, which is one of worst hit areas.
“The persistent drought in the region has led approximately 80 percent of the constituency reliant on food aid for survival with shockingly high rates of severe acute malnutrition among children and death of livestock across the constituency,” the MP said in a letter addressed to the Devolution CS.