Muguka ban exposes Cabinet rift as Duale, Jumwa back move

Coast Parliamentary Group led by their chairman, Dan Mwashako [in strips Shirt] protest against Sale and chewing of Muguka in Coast region. They have threatened to block lorries transporting Muguka from entering Coast region. [Omondi Onyango,Standard]

The muguka ban by coastal counties has exposed the discordance in Cabinet as President William Ruto and two of his Cabinet Secretaries have differed on the matter that has not only divided the government but miraa-growing and consuming counties.

Following the ban on May 27, the President met with Embu leaders and declared the ban null and void, decreeing that muguka was a scheduled crop in accordance with the Crops Act 2013 and the Miraa Regulations 2023.

The head of State said the miraa regulations were passed by the National Assembly and the Council of Governors.

“With muguka having been recognized by national legislation, any other laws or orders that contradict national legislation are null and void,” Ruto said in a dispatch from State House.

“To address concerns of all parties and stakeholders, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock is directed to convene a consultative forum to address concerns raised and agree on the implementation of the Miraa/Muguka Regulations 2023,” the president ordered.

The President later announced that his government will pump Sh500 million in the 2024-25 Financial Year for value addition of the scheduled crops as part of the scaling up of their aggregation, grading, pricing, packaging and value addition.

On pricing, he said the Council of Governors has already nominated three members to the Miraa/Muguka Pricing Committee to regulate the prices in accordance with the Crops Act, 2023. But Cabinet members Aden Duale (Defense) and Aisha Jumwa (Gender, Culture and National Heritage) are opposed to the consumption of the plant and support its ban in Coast and North Eastern counties.

On Sunday, while speaking at Eastleigh during the opening of a business centre, Duale said the fight against drug and substance abuse calls for a collective, whole-of-society approach. He noted as the country was engaged in the fight for the production, distribution and consumption of illicit brews, it needed to combat other substances such as muguka with the same emphasis.

“We believe muguka is a drug and is destroying a lot of young people. If we are fighting alcohol, then we should fight muguka,” he said, while imploring Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua to lead the war against muguka consumption.

“If we are fighting alcohol in Central Kenya, Rift Valley and every part of Kenya, we must also fight muguka. I will ask the Deputy President in the next two weeks to call that conference and we candidly discuss the effects of muguka on certain regions and communities,” said Duale.

Ms Jumwa, on the other hand, urged Coast security agencies to enforce muguka bans in Kilifi and Mombasa counties, adding that Coast leaders were not scared of court threats. 

“I have heard people saying that they are going to court. I want to tell them that we will not be scared and we shall fight for the ban to stay,” she said, adding that it was ironical that leaders from the Mt Kenya region were in support of the fight against counterfeit alcohol but did not want Coast leaders to fight the sale of muguka in the region.

The government inconsistencies come as the six-member county governments of Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani Economic Bloc who were scheduled to meet Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi following a directive by the President wrote to the CS declining to attend the proposed forum scheduled for June 6.

“We regret to inform you that the six-member County Governments of Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani Economic Bloc duly represented by the undersigned Governors, jointly decline to attend the proposed forum scheduled for June 6, 2024,” the governors said in a joint communique signed by all six governors who included Abdulswamad Nassir (Mombasa), Gideon Mung’aro (Kilifi), Fatuma Achani (Kwale), Dhadho Godhana (Tana River), Issa Timamy (Lamu) and Taita Taveta’s Andrew Mwadime.

On May 28, a High Court in Embu suspended the orders banning the stimulant in Mombasa, Kilifi and Taita Taveta until a case on the same is heard and determined.

“That pending inter partes hearing and determination of this application a conservatory order be and is hereby granted restraining and/or stopping the Respondents and or its agents from effecting, implementing and or enforcing Executive Order No. 1 issued on 22nd May 2024 by the 1st Respondent and 2nd and 3rd Respondents to last until the 8th July 2024 when the application shall be heard inter partes. The application will be served upon the respondents within seven days from today,” Justice Lucy Njuguna ruled.