Because of the opaqueness of our economic system, 95 per cent of Kenyan business operates underground managed by mafia-like cartels that achieve exclusion of most people from business and guarantee obscene profits that run into billions and trillions to a few.
The now almost denied Uganda-Kenya sugar deal that President Uhuru announced after his three-day state visit to Uganda, takes place against this background and explains why on the one hand Kenyans were told Presidents Museveni and Kenyatta had signed a deal, but Cabinet Secretary in charge of trade and his Principal Secretary have denied the same when its integrity was questioned by the opposition.
When Jubilee leaders and bureaucracy read from different scripts on the same issue, they generate confusion that many may believe could be a smokescreen to conceal corruption.
When a case of alleged corruption involves Kenyan leaders, can people be asked to believe and trust them without verification? Can people who have been once bitten with lies by their leaders, and are now twice shy with the government truth be blamed for having little trust in their leaders’ honesty?
Because campaign times both in Kenya and in Uganda seem nigh, and as usual will need tonnes of money, can one be blamed for suspecting that politicians leaders will not hesitate to make big money through any private or state deals like Anglo Leasing or Kenya-Uganda sugar deal from which big money can be made?
And why should leaders accused of plotting graft be given the benefit of doubt when contrary to Chapter 6 of the constitution, they exempted themselves from vetting for integrity?
We were told the Kenya-Uganda sugar deal is based on a surplus of sugar that is available for sale into Kenya and a deficit of sugar in Kenya that allows Kenya to purchase sugar from Uganda. But Monitor newspaper of Uganda denies Uganda has any sugar surplus it can sell into Kenya. With this denial, the only sugar surplus Uganda would have is what it has imported from Brazil to sell to Kenya at a price that is higher than Kenya would directly import from Brazil, and lower than Uganda sugar exporters would sell to Kenya. By implementing this sugar deal, it is obvious Kenyans would doubly lose by buying sugar that would hurt their sugar industry by buying from Uganda more expensively than they would buy from Brazil, while the same sugar sold to Kenya by Uganda would deny real Uganda sugar market in Kenya.
Clearly, this Kenya-Uganda sugar deal is neither to the benefit of Kenya nor to that of Uganda. It can only be to the benefit of Ugandan cartels that will make billions by selling cheap sugar from Brazil more expensively into Uganda and Kenyan cartels that will rake huge profits through tenders they will have been given to import sugar into Kenya more expensively than from Brazil.
Were the Kenya-Uganda sugar deal meant for the good of Kenya and Uganda, Kenyan government would not have hesitated to consult with all its sugar stakeholders, and neither would the Ugandan government have hesitated to consult with its stakeholders.
Is thinking there is corruption in the Uganda-Kenya sugar deal far-fetched and too speculative? Absolutely not.
In Kenya, doing business through cartels is the order of the day and Uganda-Kenya sugar deal would surprise if it were corruption free.
When you think of people who import fuel, you think of cartels that we saw in the Triton scandal.
When you think of people who import materials for industrial projects like the standard gauge railway, you see cartels associated with powerful people as we have already seen.
When you think of importing medicines into Kenyan hospitals, you think of powerful people who control tenders of medical imports.
When you think of mobile operators, you think of mobile cartels that block other companies from joining the mobile industry and subsequently make obscene profits, not from efficiency but exclusion and dominance.
When you think of importing maize into Kenya, you think of cartels that will even create artificial shortages and sabotage adequate production of maize through exclusive and under supply of even fake fertilisers to be able to make obscene profits.
When President Kibaki issued an exemption of duty in 2009 to Kenyans willing to import maize into Kenya to alleviate looming hunger, I went to Zambia to get government permit to import maize from there, but when I came to Kenya, I found a market of maize that was controlled by cartels that ranged from importers to millers and to government cereal boards that made it impossible for me to import even a grain of Zambian maize. Ultimately a noble effort to feed the nation only ended up enriching maize cartels through exception of duty.
I also know of a mobile company that has for seven years been trying to get into the market of mobile telephony and operations, but has completely failed because of established cartels that control the mobile industry by excluding others who may be even more competitive. Yet this happens despite the government hype and propaganda that it is doing everything to encourage and establish entrepreneurship.
Unfortunately, even as the political opposition insists on putting the government on the carpet on corruption, they are themselves not clean. During the Government of National Unity, the parties in government operated by sharing eating fields between themselves. Even now, many believe the opposition is not demanding government accountability because they are clean, but because they too want a bite of the forbidden fruit.