MUGWANG’A: Greed to blame as ‘unga’ goes missing


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A hungry is an angry man, the saying goes. And anger has a tendency of dislodging logic and rational thinking from an otherwise very wise person.

This could, at a very large extent, explain the ruckus that has surrounded the recent rise in the cost of living and the attendant efforts by political opportunists to exploit the situation for their own again.

The “unga” revolution was to be used as a campaign tool to whip up emotions against the government, blaming it for the hunger. But there is more.

A year ago, when a large section of the country was experiencing hunger and famine following failure of the rains, I wrote in these pages warning against politicising the situation and called for unity to save fellow countrymen from death.

I argued that there was a need to chase away the owl before reprimanding the chickens for venturing out.

With the concerted efforts of the government, NGOs, donors and county governments, the situation was brought under control.

But we failed to reprimand the chickens and correct the situation fast enough and just a few months later we were where we had been, only this time the round the suffering was not limited to a region.

The cost of living was high across the country with everyone feeling the heat.

And it was hunger again. And then the government moved in, allegations of scandals and rent-seeking started flying.

There was affordable maize and in an unusually fast interlude, unga was retailing at an affordable price in kiosks and supermarkets.

But the celebration would be short-lived. In just a matter of days after the subsidised maize flour hit the shelves, some regions started noticing scarcity of the same.

The reasons for the sudden scarcity can be explained in just one word, greed.

This country is just full of greedy people either as individual consumers, businessmen or politicians.

We suffer from an all-consuming appetite and selfishness that is detrimental to us, both as individuals and as a nation.

It is greed that impedes our vision in evaluating deeds of philanthropy even from donors.

It is greed that makes us believe that there is mischief in every project the government undertakes.

This greed sometimes helps us arrest the ramifications of the more harmful greed among government officials and opportunists.

But it has also denied us or delayed the benefits of some otherwise very selfless initiatives.

The greed on subsidised maize flour is sending so many of our compatriots to empty-bellied night sleep, if not early deaths.

This is how! In some slums, where the demand for the subsidised flour is highest, we learn that some unscrupulous traders buy the unga at wholesale prices and then repackage it in half-a-kilogramme plastic paper-bags, and sell at Sh30 each.

The greedy traders sell two kilos of flour at Sh120 instead of the recommended Sh90, thereby making double profits.

In other areas, the traders insist that for one to buy the flour, one must buy other items such as cooking oil and sugar as well, which the poor fellows might not need!

And there is the group of shopkeepers and distributors who have been hoarding the flour to create another shortage and sell at higher prices on the black market.

Reports also indicate that some people, fearing that the subsidy might not last, borrowed funds to buy bundles of flour to cushion themselves for as long as they can.

They thus denied others access to the product.

To this group, I say maize flour also goes bad over time.

In this time of need, selflessness works better for all of us than selfishness. So let us strive to live and let live.

Mr Mugwang’a is a communications consultant based in Nairobi. [email protected] Twitter: @Mikeysoul

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