Independent Catholic News
Archbishop Boniface Lele, of the Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa in Kenya has urged the government to act to stop food prices spiralling out of control.In a statement, Archbishop Lele writes:
Following recent reports on our print media regarding the upsurge of food prices, the Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa is shocked to learn that senior government officials and businessmen are responsible.
According to these reports, the said individuals have caused an artificial shortage of maize and maize flour in many parts of the country. As a result, a two kg packet of maize flour is now retailing at Kshs 120, up from an average of Kshs 85 a week ago. Apart from maize meal, local market surveys conducted by our Development Office indicate a sharp rise in prices of other basic food commodities between June and November 2008. Commodities affected include beans, bread, wheat flour and sugar. It is also disheartening to note that whereas the price of crude oil and gasoline has dropped by almost 50 % internationally, fuel prices in Kenya remain high with a reduction of only Kshs 7.
As the Catholic Church, we identify with and speak for the poor, the voiceless, the oppressed and advocate for a society, which is just, self reliant, and where basic needs are met. We cannot remain silent as thousands of people starve because of the actions of a small clique of prominent personalities. Individualistic endless accumulation of wealth at the expense of the milliard suffering, can only lead to endless conflicts. True peace will only come when ordinary Kenyans can be assured of food and other basic needs. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the silence of Government and its inability to take action against corrupt individuals who are the source of this food crisis. The above situation is immoral and totally unacceptable.
Our Recommendations to the Government;
1. We call upon Government to seriously fight corruption and apprehend the individuals responsible for the above racket. There is no justification whatsoever on why the perpetrators of these heinous economic crime have not been arrested and arraigned in a court of law. This will deter others from engaging in impunity.
2. Although competition and free trade are useful elements of economic systems, the State must protect the economic welfare of all its citizens. It’s the responsibility of Government to intervene and ensure that the prices of basic commodities, such as maize meal, are affordable to the local ‘wananchi’. This can be done by removing unnecessary taxation on essential commodities and pressuring Oil companies to reduce fuel prices.
3. The time has come for the Government to seriously address the long term issue of insufficient food production. Our leaders must put in place measures to cushion local farmers against high prices of farm inputs by introducing agricultural subsidies in order to boost farming. These measures will lead to increased harvests, boost the national strategic food reserve and earn the country foreign exchange through food exports. This is not a dream. Malawi, our Southern Africa neighbour has followed this route and registered tremendous success. It has shown us that what is required to guarantee food security is political will and visionary leadership, devoid of selfishness.
4. The Ministry of Agriculture can address food security by boosting production in arid and semi-arid areas. This can be done through provision of manure, irrigation and educating farmers on appropriate farming techniques.
As a church, we are the conscience of society and custodians of peoples’ interests. We desire to see development that is sustainable, consultative, and equitable, and one that truly benefits the God fearing citizens of our beloved Kenya.
Signed: +Archbishop Boniface M. Lele, Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa.