By DAVID MUCHUI
Since the ban on Miraa was effected in the Netherlands and intent to ban in the United Kingdom was made known, much has been said and done by the political leadership, farmers and business people in Meru.
From the lobbying for support of the crop in the Kenyan and UK Parliament to a fundraiser in aid of a legal battle in the UK courts, all seems to have hit a snag after the UK government slapped Miraa traders with a ban early June.
While leaders are falling over themselves to earn points from the circumstances, National Campaign Against Drug Abuse Authority (NACADA) placed yet another hurdle on the race to save the herb by proposing that chewing be restricted to between 5pm and 10pm.
The leaders have been quick to hit back on NACADA over the intention.
The developments have resulted to dissatisfaction among Miraa farmers who have accused a section of Meru MPs, who staged the fight to rescue the market in UK, of misappropriating the money raised for the court case.
Miraa farmers have been feeling cheated by the political leaders while the political leaders have expressed their undying commitment to defend the crop with each seeking an avenue for rescuing the herb.
Meru County Women Representative Florence Kajuju as well as MPs from Igembe who were seen as the ambassadors for Khat in the ensuing struggle, have had to dispel claims that the money raised at Maili Tatu was squandered in the trips to UK.
Kajuju who led the Parliamentary Adhoc Committee on Miraa says that she did her best and staged a spirited fight to stop the ban and those spreading the rumors are out to taint the MPs’ names.
“The committee prepared a report and tabled it in parliament where it was approved. The report recommended that the government supports growth and marketing of Miraa. It also provided for amendment of the Crops Act 2013 to include Miraa as a scheduled crop. This will enable the Ministry of agriculture make policies for the improvement and marketing of the crop,” Kajuju says.
She further said that the report by her committee recommended that the government provides funds to Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) to facilitate a credible research that will ascertain whether Miraa is harmful.
“Already, the 2014/2015 has provided about Sh60 million for the scientific research on Miraa. Politics aside, let us work together to defend the crop. MPs went to London as a special parliamentary committee and all expenses were covered by the National assembly. Money raised in Meru was used to pay lawyers,” she argues.
Ms Kajuju said it was unfortunate that the case did not succeed. The MPs and other stakeholders were now trying to find new markets for the crop, especially in China and India, she added.
On his part, Igembe Central MP Kubai Kiringo says he is in shock over the claims that the MPs misused the money raised by farmers and business people.
“There are people out to fight Miraa from left right and centre. The infighting that has emerged after the ban will not do us any good. Farmers, leaders and traders should join hands to fight the common enemy first before turning to ourselves. We have never used a coin from the fundraiser money,” Kiringo remarked.
The MP who was speaking during the Igembe South Education Day at Maua Girls’ High school warned the residents against disrespecting their leaders.
Amendment to the Crops Act
Mr Kiringo explains that all the money raised at Maili Tatu Harambee was banked in the Cooperative Bank while Sh2 million from Meru County government was sent to the Lawyers.
“The Lawyers in the London were paid Sh7 million while the Kenyan lawyer who prepared the files was paid Sh600, 000. Let us stop fighting over unfounded rumors and defend the crop,” he said.
The Igembe Central MP said that their current focus it to ensure the crop is protected under the Crops Act before going out to seek for other markets.
In a social media update on 23rd July, Kiringo said that he had successfully moved a motion seeking an amendment to the Crops Act 2013 to include Miraa in the list of cash crops in Kenya.
“I am happy to announce that this came to be as the amendment got majority of the votes. I hereby take this opportunity to thank the team that steered this amendment, Members of Parliament who voted for the same and you the citizen for your endless support. Kazi Iendelee,” Kiringo wrote.
Adding his voice on the matter, an agitated Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi assured residents of Igembe that the MPs had not given up on the fight for Miraa.
Linturi who also spoke during the Igembe South Education Day told off those spreading rumors of funds misuse and blamed the loss of the court case to omissions in filing of the petition.
“The fight for Miraa is on and those smearing our names don’t know what they are saying. Some of them did not contribute anything during the fundraiser. It is a shame that Miraa farmers and traders who are said to reap big from the crop contributed small monies,” charged Linturi.
He lamented that no Miraa farmer or resident of the Miraa growing zone was involved in the suit filed in the UK case leading to filing of a weak case.
“The case was filed by a UK based businessman and lawyers hired from Nairobi and UK. The people of Meru who know the Miraa crop better were not involved. We discovered this while in London,” Linturi revealed.
European Human Rights Court
Linturi said that he has taken the Miraa legal battle a notch higher by sponsoring a petition in the European Court of Human Rights seeking withholding of the ban for three to five years to cushion farmers from the effects of the ban.
“Lawyers led by former MP for Imenti Central Gitobu Imanyara have already flown to the European court to seek leave for 3-5 years to enable farmers organize themselves. You cannot cut off the economic lifeline abruptly and leave them in suffering. It is a human right violation which must be guarded against,” Linturi said.
The MP said that he will personally foot the bill for the suit and expects the Court to instruct the UK government to lift the ban for a period of time.
Meanwhile, Meru County Governor Peter Munya has announced plans to establish a Miraa taskforce that will look into the Miraa problems among them the loss of European market.
Speaking during the launch of the County Integrated Development Plan at Three Steers Hotel recently, Munya noted that the impact of the ban is big on livelihoods and general economy of the County.
“The Taskforce on Miraa is expected to find out the impact of the ban and give recommendations on what can be done to cushion farmers and traders. The taskforce should be able to make recommendations that will be adopted by the national government to help in harnessing the situation,” Munya said.
He noted that Miraa trade has had a great influence on the economy of the County through the ripple effect.
“Some people may show no concern on the ban because they are not farmers or chewers. Let them know that everyone has benefited from Miraa money. We expect to find options on farming and marketing and look into ways of expanding and opening new markets,” the governor said.
Munya further said that the County government will engage with the governments that have banned Miraa to come up with ways of rejuvenating the economy that has largely relied on the crop.
However, some leaders have been calling on Miraa farmers to look beyond the crop and diversify into other forms of agriculture.