Kenyans in 2019, showcased solidarity whenever they united to vent their anger and frustration at President Uhuru Kenyatta and his government over some questionable decisions.
In 2019, unemployment and taxation were at their peak. A number of private sectors also collapsed due to stringent government measures not to mention a number of preventable calamities.
The government was criticised for untimely reactions when disasters struck, while most leaders who heeded to the distress calls were labelled disaster celebrities, as Kenyans alleged that such leaders were just opportunists who tried to milk disasters for popularity.
Uhuru on his part, was on the receiving end of constant criticism from Kenyans whenever he appointed old-guards to public offices.
Below are a number of contentious issues that raised eyebrows in 2019.
Ban on Maize Floors by KEBS.
On Saturday, November 9, Kenya Bureau of Standards announced that the government had banned five popular maize flour brands that had not met the standards that would pass them as fit for human consumption. The brands were suspected to be selling floor containing dangerous levels of aflatoxin.
Brands that were flagged included the Dola Maize Meal, Kifaru Maize Meal, Starehe Maize Meal, Two Ten (210) maize meal, and Jembe Maize Meal.
KEBS stated that it would undertake market surveillance and factory inspections to make sure that such products were seized and destroyed at the expense of the manufacturer.
However, on Wednesday, November 20, they changed tune and lifted the ban on two of the flagged brands namely: the Dola brand, manufactured by Kitui Flour Mills and Kifaru brand manufactured by Alpha Grain Mills Limited.
They stated that the companies had implemented the stipulated corrective remedies that Kebs had prescribed.
NTV’s investigative reporter, Dennis Okari, placed the Kenyan Parliament on the spot through a chilling exposé regarding an elaborate plan to rake in billions by selling contaminated maize to the public.
Former Naivasha MP, John Mututho claimed that MPs were bribed to quash the Report on Food Security Status and the Maize Shortage in the Country that was tabled at the national assembly on April 2009.
Okari’s expose further detailed how former KEBS MD Kioko Mang’eli had written to the then Managing Director at the National Cereals & Produce Board (NCPB) Gideon Misoi, highlighting the potential hazards that would arise if the general population was exposed to the poisonous maize.
Reacting to the expose, on Wednesday, November 13, Cabinet secretaries Mwangi Kiunjuri (Agriculture) and Peter Munya (Trade), revealed that a committee had been constituted to probe the aflatoxins in Kenya's staple foods after an outcry from Kenyans.
The Likoni Ferry Tragedy
On Sunday, September 29, 2019, the country was engulfed with sadness when Miriam Kigenda and her daughter Amanda Mutheu drowned in the Indian Ocean.
2 months letter, a leaked letter to Transport CS James Macharia exposed the rot at Likoni Ferry before the tragedy occurred.
In the letter, the Kenya Ferry Services board had recommended the sacking of Managing Director, Bakari Gowa, over what it termed as incompetence.
It later sought the intervention of Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti to probe procurement at KFS, highlighting that despite millions being used to repair the ferries every year, the vessels still exposed commuters to risks.
Ironically, the author of the letter, Dan Mwanzo, who was then KFS Chairman carried the burden of the tragedy as President Uhuru Kenyatta fired him.
What angered Kenyans was that it took 14 days for the head of state to send condolence messages to the family of the deceased.
Mary Wambui’s appointment
On Monday, October 14, Labour CS Ukuru Yattani appointed Mary Wambui as the chairperson of the National Employment Authority.
NEA was established in April 2016 through an act of Parliament (the National Employment Authority Act 2016) that provided a legal framework for the operation.
The Authority was created out of the then National Employment Bureau (NEB) which was one of the Departments in the Ministry of East African Community, Labour and Social Protection.
The move backfired as Kenyans ganged up against President Uhuru Kenyatta. With the #DearUhuruKenyatta hashtag, which became a trending topic, they cried out to Kenyatta that they were displeased with how he was running the government. They felt that the job should have been given to the youth.
On Tuesday, October 22, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Peris Nyutu to the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), after Mary Wambui’s appointment was suspended.
Interior CS Fred Matiang’i’s Directive on Betting
In July 2019, Matiang’i initiated a crackdown on betting firms. The Betting Control and Licensing Board under Matiangi's ministry shutdown pay bill numbers and shortcodes of 27 firms.
The move was lauded and loathed in equal measure. Some Senators lauded the CS for reigning in rogue firms and others faulted him terming it a threat to the country's economy.
In September 2019, Betin and Sportpesa halted operations in Kenya after they terminated the contracts of all their staff.
The firms lamented that the stringent laws imposed by the government affected their business operations.
In October 2019, A viral video of a teary woman with a letter of dismissal broke hearts as she narrated how she had been laid off from work.
This prompted Kenyans to narrate their own ordeals at workplaces, pinpointing fingers at the government and how its actions had rendered many of them jobless.
Nicholas Gachara, a private financial adviser at Tax and Accounting, informed Kenyans.co.ke newsroom that the unemployment situation in Kenya would worsen due to the stringent government laws.
He argued that Kenyan taxes are among the highest in the region (East Africa). The government had reduced Value Added Tax (VAT) but increased tax on fuels, that is double taxation, making things more expensive.
This forced companies to invest in other countries other than Kenya.
Interest rate cap
In November 2019, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law the Finance Bill 2019 which gave the nod for the free setting of interest rates by commercial banks.
The new law was criticised as many people feared the that Kenyans will once again feel the pinch when borrowing expensive loans.
On Tuesday, November 5, on Citizen TV, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria boldly confessed that the parliament had failed Kenyans by voting for the bill which Kenyatta signed into law.
We have lied to Kenyans that all is well. Most of us being members of the ruling party. It is messy. We have lied to Kenyans and failed in the oversight responsibility," Kuria, who has been a member of the budget committee since 2014, disclosed.
He added that the Parliament had the power to take the government to task over undesirable financial decisions but had failed to do so on many occasions
Nicholas Gachara, a private financial adviser at Tax and Accounting informed Kenyans.co.ke that the move will burden the Kenyan youth and affect the private sector.
"First of all, you cannot force the banks to give out loans as they have a limit. This directive will impose a challenge on borrowers to invest unless they turn to alternatives such as Saccos and Mobile loans (SMEs) which are very expensive.
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