George Wajackoyah's ten-point manifesto put to the test by experts

Roots Party presidential candidate Prof George Wajackoyah (2nd-left) with his running Justina Wamae. [Wire Apondi, Standard]

George Wajackoyah’s manifesto paints an almost utopian country, prospering economically from proceeds of marijuana exports, snake venom, dog meat and hyena testicles.

And if he is elected president, Prof Wajackoyah promises that the first marijuana pay cheque will come in his first six months in office – the time it takes for the plant to grow into maturity. The Roots Party leader launched his manifesto on Thursday, at the same time with Kenya Kwanza Alliance plan. The Saturday Standard asked experts - an economist and a constitutional lawyer - to weigh in on the practicality of the 10-point manifesto.

Bobby Mkangi, a constitutional lawyer who drafted the 2010 Constitution, said Prof Wajackoyah's plan to legalise marijuana for medicinal use, is practical.

"The debate on legalising medical marijuana has gained worldwide traction, not just for its economic benefits, but because it is helpful to patients, such as those suffering from cancer," Mkangi said. "We cannot say it is a small issue because it has been a referendum issue in many states in the United States."

Timothy Njagi, a development economist at the Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development, Egerton University, shares Mkangi's view.

"By 2020, many European nations and the US legalised medical marijuana," Dr Njagi said. "Many countries have taken up its production for export."

Dr Njagi, however, says the bhang business is more complicated than Wajackoyah makes it and would first require declassifying bhang as a narcotic.

"Its growth is controlled and that means special licences will have to be issued and mechanisms for tracking it put in place. His proposal to grow it along the expressway is just populist."

Mr Mkangi says while exporting bhang may contribute to the nation's revenue, it may do little to dig the country out of the debt hole. As an agricultural expert, Dr Njagi said rearing snakes and dogs for meat was a highly technical enterprise.

"You need to be highly trained to handle snakes and know the species - which are venomous and so on."

He also said to penetrate the dog market in South Asia, as Wajackoyah proposes, one should understand the products.

"Consumers of dog meat don't just eat every species. There are certain varieties consumed. Most dogs in Kenya are guard dogs and pets," Dr Njagi added, warning that the dog market may not be as big.

On hyena testicle business, he contended that it may upset the wildlife ecosystem.

"Hyenas are important in the ecosystem because they are scavengers. If you take out a key player of the food chain, you must replace it. Fewer carnivores can result in a high number of herbivores," he said, adding that hunting hyenas would require an overhaul of the hunting legal regime.

"Wildlife in Kenya are protected and hunting remains illegal."

Death penalty

Mkangi dismisses it as unlawful and populist. "The law does not allow for that, but it is populist because many starving Kenyans associate their situation with corrupt leaders. By promising to hang them you are offering a direct solution."

The same for Standard Gauge Railway. "It is populist and makes little sense," Dr Njagi argued. "We have already spent the money and borrowed the loan. We will pay the loan whether or not we use the SGR."

He said Wajackoyah's proposal would render many Kenyans jobless. Prof Wajackoyah promises Kenyans will work from Monday to Thursday, a situation Dr Njagi said is dictated by the structure of a country's economy. He stated Kenya's informal economy may not sustain such a plan already adopted by some countries with the aim of increasing productivity.

Mr Mkangi equated the move to suspend the Constitution as dictatorship, saying it cannot be done by decree, and would require processes.

"Assuming that he wins, he may lack the majority in Parliament that would make him push certain agenda," Mkangi said.

He termed the promise populist and one employed by dictators. The proposal to create eight states, Mkangi said, was not new, having been proposed previously.