DAUTI KAHURA – IEBC Up to Its Usual Mischief – The Elephant

With less than two months to go before Kenya’s general election, the credibility of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is on the line.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was playing by the rulebook when it received the presidential nomination papers of Walter Mongare alias Nyambane. But no sooner did candidate Jimi Wanjigi of the Safina Party show up than Mongare’s papers were quickly rescinded.
The commission, which is mandated to oversee the forthcoming general election, has been in the spotlight and under intense scrutiny from Kenyans and the world since bungling the 2017 presidential election.
The electoral commission’s credibility and trustworthiness have remained wanting, to say the least; the body does not inspire confidence and, indeed, few Kenyans trust it. Even less believe it will midwife the forthcoming presidential election successfully, a bad place for the IEBC to be.
The results of the two 2017 presidential elections are still shrouded in controversy and mystery largely because of the commission’s ineptitude, but the less said about the 2017 general election, which is still fresh in the minds of some, the better.
Fast forward to 2022 and the commission is again in the spotlight; with only 55 days remaining, the IEBC’s credibility and modus operandi are under scrutiny. How it delivers the general election will tell whether any lessons have been learned, especially concerning the presidential election, which, if not handled with the utmost transparency, may result in ugly scenes.
That the IEBC would still be in the grip of shadowy mandarins seeking to influence, in particular, the outcome of the results of the presidential election would be nothing new; the history of electoral bodies in this country, whether pre- or post- the 2010 constitution, is replete with cases of external interference. The Jimi Wanjigi-IEBC saga is a clear indication that the IEBC has yet to rid itself of its penchant for bad behaviour. This is a bad omen.
On receiving the papers of the Safina Party’s candidate, the IEBC chairman and presidential election returning officer Wafula Chebukati prevaricated, seeming to interpret the law when on 6 June 2013 he told Wanjigi, who appeared before him, that he did not possess a university degree.
That the IEBC would still be in the grip of shadowy mandarins seeking to influence, in particular, the outcome of the results of the presidential election would be nothing new.
The matter of what is a degree and what constitutes a university education had already been interpreted by the High Court as law, as illustrated below, a law that the IEBC has been using for the last nine years. In 2013, Justices Isaac Lenaola and E.K.O. Ogola ably demonstrated the application of the said legal statutes and gave an interpretation of the 2010 constitution and the election act, insofar as possession of a university degree is concerned.
In the case of Janet Ndago Mbete vs IEBC and Hassan Joho Petition No. 116 of 2013, the commission cleared the 3rd respondent (Hassan Joho) based on the completion letter from the university and defended the position in court as proof that the 3rd respondent had indeed received a university education. It therefore boggles the mind when Chebukati purports to say that both Jimi Wanjigi and Walter Mongare (an afterthought) do not possess university degrees.
In fact, in recognising and applying the law properly, the commission had indeed accepted and cleared Mongare’s presidential candidacy based on university letters that showed that he had completed his studies. This it did by communicating and confirming that he had met all the statutory requirements. So, why did Chebukati annul his earlier decision, which clearly came as an afterthought?
The revocation of Mongare’s clearance by Chebukati followed in the wake of Wanjigi’s complaint to the IEBC that he was being discriminated against. Is it not the case that once a candidate has been cleared by the returning officer Chebukati has no powers to quash the nomination unless through a judicial process?
Ten days after the March 4 general election, on 15 March 2013, High Court judge Isaac Lenaola in his substantive ruling quoted from the Blacks Law Dictionary, 8th Edition, which defines a degree as; “a title conferred on a graduate of a school, college, or university either after the completion of required studies or in honour of special achievements.” The judge also quoted from the Concise Oxford Dictionary10th Edition, which defines a degree as; “an academic rank conferred by a college or university after examination and or after completion of a course, or conferred as an honour.”
Summing up his argument, Judge Lenaola said, “I am therefore in agreement with the 3rd respondent that a degree is not a physical connotation, but a process whose pinnacle is the graduation. Indeed, the Concise Oxford Dictionary, 10th Edition defines a graduate as one who has ‘successfully completed a degree’ and a graduand as ‘person who is about to receive an academic degree’. It is therefore clear to me that, the graduation ceremony cannot be used as measure to determine whether one had a degree or not. In my view what matters is that a person has attended school, undertaken the studies envisaged and has passed all the requisite exams for the conferment of the degree. Having found as above, I am satisfied that the 3rd respondent holds the qualifications envisaged by Section 22 (2) of the Elections Act.”
The revocation of Mongare’s clearance by Chebukati followed in the wake of Wanjigi’s complaint to the IEBC that he was being discriminated against.
In a related ruling delivered before the 4 March 2013 elections, on 13 February 2013, Judge E.K.O Ogola made very much the same argument as Judge Lenaola in the case of Mable Muruli vs the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
“The issue for this court is then to determine whether or not after a person has successfully gone through the process leading to acquisition of a degree, he is qualified under section 22 (2) of the Act even when no physical certificate has been conferred. In my judgement, the respondent that is the (IEBC) has made very superficial interpretation of section 22 (2) of the Election Act. In my view, a certificate is merely a confirmation of what is already in existence. The petitioner (Mabel Muruli) has successfully completed the course programme. That programme has been acknowledged by the Commission of Higher Education (. . .) and the respondent has no option but to admit the petitioner to the relevant candidacy.”
Judge Ogola in his wisdom also said that, “there are many circumstances where people have been admitted to employment or to further study course on the basis of what they have proved to have achieved even when the graduation and certification is yet to take place. For the respondent to flagrantly disregard this peculiar position is to arrogantly violate the rights of the petitioner and it is the duty of this court to restore the same.”
As far as the Election Act goes this law has never been appealed, hence it is binding to both the respondents and the IEBC. Chebukati, therefore, cannot purport to change the law on a whim, otherwise he will be operating outside of the law.
Jimi Wanjigi’s case, like many other complainants’ cases, went before the IEBC’s Dispute Tribunal Committee at Milimani Courts. However, on 17 June 2022 the Tribunal upheld the earlier decision and did not clear him to run for the country’s top seat.
The Elephant is helping to build a truly public platform, while producing consistent, quality investigations, opinions and analysis. The Elephant cannot survive and grow without your participation. Now, more than ever, it is vital for The Elephant to reach as many people as possible.
Your support helps protect The Elephant’s independence and it means we can continue keeping the democratic space free, open and robust. Every contribution, however big or small, is so valuable for our collective future.
Donate Now
Mr Kahura is a senior writer for The Elephant.
Road to 9/8: Is the IEBC Prepared?
Polls and Ballots: Getting Into the ‘Weeds’ of Election-Based Survey Research
Presidential Candidate Wajackoya and Weed Export!
Elections 2022: Mt Kenya Foundation Remains Mum
Road to 9/8: Risks Posed by Digitisation of Electoral Processes
Road to 9/8: Challenges Posed by Increasingly Digitised Elections
The harrowing execution of Patrick Lyoya, a Congolese refugee in Michigan, and the unfulfilled promise of resettlement in America.
In 2014, eighteen-year-old Patrick Lyoya resettled with his five younger siblings and their parents, Peter and Dorcas, in Michigan, United States, where they joined a growing population of Congolese refugees seeking better lives. That same year, Michigan native Christopher Schurr traveled to Kenya for a mission trip, where he and his then fiancée (both white Americans) married. On the morning of April 4th, 2022, the two men would meet for the first and last time.
Early that morning, Lyoya was pulled over by Schurr—now a police officer in Grand Rapids, Michigan’s second largest city—allegedly for driving with an unregistered license plate. In a matter of minutes, the traffic stop turned into a foot chase (a high-risk behavior increasingly discouraged in police reform circles), a struggle, and ultimately, an execution. While pinning Lyoya down and kneeling on his back, Schurr fatally shot Lyoya in the back of the head.
More than two months later, on June 9th, Kent County prosecutor Chris Becker announced murder charges against Schurr, in a rare but welcome turn of events. This is an important development in the fight for greater accountability for police use of deadly force. Over the past two months, local leaders and activists have kept up the pressure. Groups like the Grand Rapids Association of Pastors, which includes the support of nearly 70 local pastors from across denominations; the Grand Rapids NAACP, the Black civil rights organization; and other local leaders have been pressing authorities for transparency, accountability, and police reform in Grand Rapids. The police department there has been under investigation since 2019 by the Michigan Department of Civil RightsIn his statement, Becker argues that Schurr’s use of deadly force cannot be characterized as self defense. The defense disagrees, saying Lyoya’s murder was “justified.” The Lyoya family will now have to endure the lengthy and painful legal battle ahead.
Perhaps Schurr’s mission trip to Kenya is irrelevant to this latest example of America’s lethal problem of over-policing of Black communities. But we should acknowledge the cruel irony of a White Savior dressed in blue—who dressed “like an African” for his Christian mission wedding—pinning down a Congolese refugee and fatally shooting him in the back of the head in the name of self-defense. Not only was Patrick Lyoya the victim of a violent reality in America where Black people are nearly three times as likely to be killed by police than white people. He was also the victim of American austerity economics where policing stands in as a response to the defunding of social services and resettlement means acculturating to the impossible mathematics of pulling oneself up by their bootstraps without a safety net.
Born in Uvira, Democratic Republic of Congo, 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya lived for over a decade in the Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi (the camp receives 300 new arrivals on average monthly, the majority from the DRC) before being resettled with his family in Lansing, Michigan’s state capital, at the age of 18. According to The Washington Post, Peter and Dorcas Lyoya worked “odd jobs,” and the family of eight shared a small apartment when they first moved to Michigan. Patrick Lyoya later moved to Grand Rapids where he moved between family and friends’ homes and where he most recently worked on the factory floor of an auto manufacturing plant. Not long before he was killed, Patrick had just moved into his own place, a milestone for the 26-year-old refugee.
According to people close to him, Lyoya worked hard to take care of his family. He wanted to buy or build a home for his mother as part of his quest to achieve a comfortable middle-class American life. He was also a father of two and an active member of the Congolese community, where he was known to help new arrivals find their footing. Lyoya attended the Restoration Community Church of the United Methodist Church, where Pastor Banza Mukalay, also a refugee who resettled in the US, remembered him as a hard working young man who “tried to make his future better.”
As much reporting has highlighted, Patrick’s life was complicated. According to Pastor Joshua Munonge Kibezi of Kalamazoo, MI, who lived in Malawi as a refugee with the Lyoyas, Patrick sometimes worked three jobs to support himself and his family. But existing media profiles have highlighted Patrick’s legal troubles dating back to 2015 without meaningfully reflecting on the ways in which resettlement policies intersect with anti-Black biases in America that place refugees like Patrick firmly into a violent cycle of over-policing and under-resourcing of Black immigrant lives.
In recent years, Grand Rapids, MI, has become an important place of resettlement for refugees from the DRC. According to one source, between March and October of 2019, 319 out of 490 refugees who resettled in Michigan were Congolese. And according to resettlement agency Bethany Christian Services, Grand Rapids was becoming the “no. 1 place” that Congolese refugees requested for resettlement as part of the process of “secondary migration” by which refugees seek to follow or reunite with family members through the resettlement process. As of 2019, Grand Rapids was home to about 8,000 refugees from the DRC and 11 Congolese churches.
However, national resettlement numbers have significantly declined in recent years, particularly under the former Trump administration. This has meant that social services have also been slashed. Resettling in the US is exceptionally hard, as sociologist Heba Gowayed shows in her new book that details American resettlement policies and their implications for Syrian refugees. Resettlement in America relies heavily on the notion of “self-sufficiency,” treating newcomers as “American low-income workers” and denying them crucial services for integrating into American economic and social life.
But the story doesn’t end there. Where state and federal support services fall short, the growing Congolese refugee community in Michigan has been working hard to uplift and support its members. Pastor Kibezi (who was close to Patrick) runs a nonprofit called African Community Kalamazoo. It gained official nonprofit status in 2019, formed to “cater to the needs of all Africans, African refugees in Kalamazoo County, Michigan and by extension, the United States. Also, we promote the unity of Africans, and support the development of our host community.” Among their services, African Community Kalamazoo works to ensure members of the community have adequate access to food, translation, and interpretation services for non-English speaking immigrants and refugees within the community. (You can make a donation to their cause here.) According to their website, they are currently working to open a childcare center and provide help with finding affordable housing solutions for its community members. They are also looking for volunteers and donations of household goods, including food and diapers. Patrick Lyoya was involved in this work, too—work that the refugee community is doing to improve the lives of those whom American resettlement practices have failed to protect and uplift.
Now, in light of the recent tragedy that has struck the refugee and Black community of Grand Rapids, Patrick’s father, Peter, cautions those who may be thinking about seeking asylum in the area: “I want to say for those people who are seeking asylum here, refuge, I don’t want you to think this is a safe place. I thought it was a safe place, but it seems like we are in danger even when we come here.” As Swahili speakers, the Lyoyas have relied on translators for interviews. It is unclear from media reports how strong Patrick’s English skills were—but New York Times reporting indicates that language was a barrier for him, possibly even in his encounter with Schurr on April 4th.
Earlier this month, Michigan banned Swahili (and Spanish) dictionaries in its prisons, claiming that the “books’ contents are a threat to the state’s penitentiaries.” But this move begs the question: how many among the growing Congolese population in Michigan are landing in the prison system? Statistics are not readily available. However, data compiled by the Vera Institute of Justice shows that while Black people make up 15% of Michigan’s population, they make up 53% of the state’s prison population (and 37% of its jail population). According to The New York Times, Patrick Lyoya had spent some time in and out of jail. And according to some readers’ comments, Patrick’s legal troubles seem to justify his murder, which is a sad reflection of how too many Americans uncritically think about crime—violent and nonviolent—as a reflection of the individual more than as a reflection of America’s austerity economics and deepening social divides.
Patrick Lyoya’s case has drawn national attention. The Reverend Al Sharpton eulogized Patrick at his funeral on April 22nd, and Patrick’s parents hired well-known civil rights attorney Ben Crump. Davionne Smith, a Black Lives Matter activist and cousin to Breonna Taylor (a Grand Rapids native), has helped organize marches calling for justice for Patrick and his family.
Patrick Lyoya’s life mattered. Black Lives Matter.

This post is from a partnership between Africa Is a Country and The Elephant. We will be publishing a series of posts from their site once a week.
This is the fourth of a series of articles that discuss some of the major issues at stake, and the roles played by various institutions in safeguarding the integrity of the August 2022 general election.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC’s) centrality to the electoral process cannot be understated. There is a clear nexus between the perception of its credibility and the likelihood of instability. A recently conducted dry run of the IEBC’s new results transmission system recorded a failure rate of nearly 60%. Of the 2,900 polling stations used for the simulation, only 1,200 successfully transmitted data. This is deeply concerning in an election where we will have the highest number of polling stations and registered voters in Kenyan history at 46,232 and 22.1 million respectively. Illustratively, if the same failure rate is recorded during the actual election, this would mean 27,739 polling stations would fail to transmit results. In our previous articles, we discussed the IEBC’s use of technology in elections administration. In this article, we further scrutinize the elections management body’s readiness for the upcoming polls. Is the IEBC election ready? Can it administer a credible election?
Based on the Supreme Court’s indictment of the IEBC’s elections management in 2017 and the IEBC’s own assessment in its Post-Election Evaluation Report, the recurring themes in the IEBC’s shortcomings are its procurement practices, its use of technology and its internal capacity.  In appraising the IEBC’s, we are guided by its failings in previous electoral cycles and ask whether these have been remedied. A creature of the Constitution, the IEBC is mandated with continuous voter registration, elections administration, campaign financing regulation and registration of political candidates. We will focus only on continuous voter registration and elections administration.
In the historic 2017 judgment annulling the results of the presidential elections, the Supreme Court found that the IEBC’s transmission of results was riddled with irregularities. From missing statutory forms to statistical anomalies in the transmission of results, the Court concluded that it was unlikely the poll was credible. At the centre of these challenges was IDEMIA, the entity contracted by the IEBC to provide the Kenya Integrated Election Management System (KIEMS) which included biometric voter registration kits and a results transmission system. Under the Elections Act, the IEBC is required to use an integrated electoral system that enables biometric voter registration, electronic voter identification and the electronic transfer of results. Since 2013, the IEBC’s procurement of service providers to print ballot papers and administer the KIEMS has been surrounded by controversy. Writing for Africa Uncensored, John-Allan Namu has recently chronicled the IEBC’s seemingly systemic challenges with procurement. The circumstances surrounding IDEMIA’s procurement by the IEBC suggest significant external influence. In 2013, IDEMIA successfully secured the contract with the IEBC despite it not having the most viable bid. Further, despite lingering doubts around the credibility of its conduct of the 2013 election, IDEMIA was directly procured to administer the 2017 election for the alarming amount of KES 4 billion – the most expensive election in the region at the time. Internal records indicate that the IEBC was conflicted about the propriety and feasibility of IDEMIA’s procurement. Eventually, IDEMIA would sub-contract the results transmission to another entity.  The disastrous performance of the KIEMS in 2017 hardly needs to be recounted. The IEBC’s procurement challenges were not only limited to the integrated elections management system. A few months before the 2017 general elections, the IEBC’s procurement of Dubai-based Al Ghurair to print the ballots for the presidential elections was under scrutiny before the High Court and the Court of Appeal. This time, Al Ghurair was locked out for failing to meet a local shareholding requirement which was introduced following the 2017 elections.
Half a decade later, the IEBC seems to be in the same position. This time, it has procured Smartmatic International to administer the KIEMS and Inform P Lykos to print the ballot papers. Coincidentally, Smartmatic is the only company whose bid beat that of IDEMIA in 2013 yet it was not contracted. So, who is Smartmatic?  Earlier this year, the Philippine Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Centre concluded that Smartmatic’s system was ‘compromised’ during elections it administered, not exactly an endorsement of its potential to administer Kenya’s forthcoming elections. Why would the IEBC lurch from one questionable service provider from one election to the next? On the basis of credibility, Smartmatic’s contract with the IEBC was questioned before the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board by Risk Africa Innovatis, which this time emerged second in the bidding for the contract. Inform P Lykos’ contract for the printing of the ballot papers was also challenged but the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board dismissed both cases. In each case, the complainants appealed to the High Court, which is yet to decide, but the IEBC has proceeded to contract both entities, citing the urgency of the elections and the absence of injunctions restraining them from doing so.
Unpacking the IEBC’s sense of urgency, it is apparent that history once again is repeating itself. In its Post-Election Evaluation Report, the IEBC highlighted that delays in disbursements from the Exchequer has, in each election cycle, compromised its adherence to statutory timelines. During this cycle, the IEBC’s clean-up of the voter register was impeded by IDEMIA’s refusal to hand over voter data to Smartmatic, apparently because of non-payment by IEBC. That the IEBC would conclude a contract that would permit a third-party service to exercise a lien over Kenyans’ personal data in that way is unsettling.  Unfortunately, like the government’s contract for the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway, IEBC’s contract with IDEMIA has never been made available to the public, and it appears that neither will its agreement with Smartmatic. On the procurement front, it appears that not much has changed since 2017.
In the 2017 election, approximately 27% of polling stations lacked sufficient network coverage to support results transmission and, according to the IEBC, the result was a transmission rate 92.7%. This time, there have been conflicting statements by the IEBC regarding its network coverage. In April, an IEBC official announced that only approximately 260 polling stations (out of the total 46,232) lacked network coverage. In June, this number went up to 1,111. The Supreme Court, in the 2017 presidential election petition, directed the IEBC to ensure that all polling stations had sufficient network coverage. It is now clear that the IEBC has failed to comply with this directive, and this fact has been brought up in a law suit against the IEBC for its decision to scrap the manual voter register contrary to the provisions of the Elections Act. With the failure rate recorded during the dry run, the doubts over Smartmatic’s system and the large number of polling stations without sufficient network coverage, it is unclear if the IEBC can deliver an election without significant structural failings.
Aside from the integrated elections management system, the voter register presented seemingly insurmountable challenges to the IEBC. While the Elections Act requires the IEBC to conduct an audit of the voter register not less than 6 months before the elections, KPMG was instructed to audit the register in March. Even before this audit was complete, the IEBC admitted that the voter register was breached, and voter data unlawfully transferred. Over 1 million voters were affected, with, for example, some voters who were registered in Nyeri County being transferred to counties in the former North Eastern Province. The IEBC chairman has since announced that the responsible officers have been identified and would be prosecuted. Especially because of the recent decision by the IEBC to scrap the manual register in favour of the digital register, the importance of the latter’s reliability is clear. What remains unclear is the sufficiency of the IEBC’s efforts to secure this reliability.
Immediately after the Supreme Court nullified the presidential elections in 2017, the IEBC experienced a mass exodus in its leadership. The CEO, Ezra Chiloba, and four commissioners all resigned. These officials, among others from the IEBC, have since been appointed to eye-catching positions. Chiloba was recently appointed as Director General of the Communications Authority, Immaculate Kassait is now the Data Commissioner, and James Muhati, the immediate former ICT director is now in charge of Huduma Kenya. Perhaps questions should also be raised regarding the Chairman’s continuance with the IEBC despite the colossal failure that was the 2017 election. The vacancies in the IEBC were only completely filled in September last year, 11 months to the elections. In its Post-Election Evaluation Report, the IEBC highlighted that in each cycle, its internal human resource capacity has been wanting. According to the Independent Review Commission, for an electoral management body to adequately prepare for an election, its leadership needs to be in place at least 24 months prior to the elections. In 2013, the IEBC’s vacancies were filled 15 months prior to the elections, and in 2017, this period was only 7 months. Between the delayed release of funds by the Treasury and the lack of political goodwill in filling its vacancies, it appears that the IEBC is designed to fail.
It goes without saying that an organisation’s leadership will determine, in large part, whether it will effectively deliver on its mandate. Are the commissioners currently in office, based on their backgrounds, up to the task of elections management? Before joining the IEBC, none of the current commissioners, including the Chairperson, had any experience in elections management. The upshot of this, is that save for Chebukati, who is the chair, and Commissioners Guliye and Molu, the commission’s leadership of 7 are all new to elections management.  Those who are not new learnt on the job and do not have appear to have relevant academic qualifications. Even the CEO lacks a background in elections management. Comparatively, South Africa’s Electoral Commission is comprised of a total of 5 commissioners, 3 of whom have over a decade’s experience in elections management. One of the commissioners, Dr. Masuku, even developed the Electoral Commission’s strategy and implementation framework in 1998. While a diverse skillset is important at leadership level, it goes without saying that practical knowledge of elections management is crucial and would undoubtedly influence the conduct of elections by electoral agencies. It is unsurprising that with the record of the leadership of South Africa’s Electoral Commission  it has had far fewer doubts raised around its credibility.  The IEBC’s top management are not self-evidently capable of administering a free and fair election: nothing in the background of the Commissioners suggests that this is a task to which they are accustomed or to which they can easily adapt.  Most are novices in this arena.  It is the equivalent of putting a ship out to into sea buffeted by gale force winds under a captain whose primary qualification is that many ships have capsized under the captain’s command.
Unfortunately, despite its attempts to address its previous failings, one cannot help but conclude that the more things change, the more they stay the same at the IEBC.  It is an institution, institutionally designed to fail.  Significant doubt still exists over its procurement process and choices, the technology it proposes to use seems not to be credible, it has had major lapses in security, and it has key officers un who lack professional credibility in the management of elections. In summary, the IEBC is not up to the task. We would be surprised if it was not found wanting. Its shortcomings are both errors of omission and commission.  We should have done a lot better.  We will now reap what we have sown with an electoral body unfit for purpose.
Reliance on imports from as far away as Tanzania, Uganda and even China, leaves Kisumu County’s accessibility to food on a fragile footing.
A ceasefire had to be called at the height of the 2007/8 post-election violence and a corridor created for the safe passage of foodstuffs from the Rift Valley to the lakeside city of Kisumu to avert a food crisis. The post-election violence had erupted barely 10 days earlier.
For a region that enjoys adequate rainfall and has good agricultural soils, the lack of access food supplies within days of a crisis breaking out is indicative of the problems generated by how food systems are structured in Kisumu County.
Kisumu County has a considerable shoreline along Lake Victoria that extends from Seme to the south to Nyakach Sub-County to the north. Apart from Kisumu city, the county also has a number of smaller towns such as Muhoroni, Ahero, Katito, Maseno and Kombewa.
Eighty per cent of the food consumed by the county’s 300,000 households—including maize, potatoes, onions, vegetables, milk, rice, eggs and bananas—is imported from as far as Uganda and Tanzania along with imports of fish from China.
Kisumu County continues to import food despite having regions that could potentially support expansive food production in areas such as Muhoroni, Nyamware and Nam Thowi, and the fertile crescents in Seme to the south. Over time, the rich alluvial soils that have been deposited in these areas by floods and rivers flowing downstream from Nandi Hills have created fertile grounds that support farming.
The persistent issues that have impeded food production in Kisumu County are numerous. Traditionally, communities living in the county practiced fishing and livestock keeping, and subsistence agriculture as their economic mainstay. Commercial farming has only been embraced in recent years, due to interactions with neighbouring farming communities such as the Kisii, Luhya, Abasuba, and Kuria. The majority, however, continue to practice smallholder subsistence agriculture.
The uptake of commercial farming was also hindered by the economic policies of the 1990s that saw the collapse or the weakening of many of the structures that had been established to support food production in the country as a whole and provided extension services, grants, and subsidies to farmers. They include the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC), the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), Agricultural Training Centres (ATCs), Agricultural Research Institutions (ARIs), and farmers’ co-operatives.
The system of land ownership in Kisumu County is also a hindrance to commercial food production. Most land in Kisumu County is not registered and titled and much of it is inherited property that has been passed down through the generations without legal title.
Recent surveys show that the cost of the farming inputs required to initiate meaningful agricultural production is out of reach for the majority of Kisumu County residents. This challenge is further compounded by the dearth of farming SACCOs (Savings and Credit Cooperatives); with the prohibitive interest rates charged by local banks, obtaining capital to start an agricultural enterprise has proved to be a challenge. These challenges are further exacerbated by the risks associated with farming such as crop losses and post-harvest losses.
The system of land ownership in Kisumu County is also a hindrance to commercial food production.
There is little agro-innovation among Kisumu farmers who still rely on traditional farming methods. There is little irrigation going on in the county. Lastly, there is a serious lack of the human resource required to support food production such as agricultural engineers, extension officers, veterinary doctors, agronomists, sociologists, planners, economists, among others.
At Jubilee Market, a major cog in the food supply chain in Kisumu City, traders lament daily about inadequate local food supplies and about middlemen from outside the county who take advantage of food shortages to import supplies and make big profits. The high demand for food and the low supply have an impact on food prices, reducing profit margins for the traders, even as consumers are faced with high food prices.
There is a serious lack of the human resource required to support food production.
The missing link in Kisumu’s economic growth is a buoyant agricultural sector. From observations made when the writer toured Victoria Eco-Farm, a leading food supplier situated at Dunga Beach in Kisumu City, the revival of agriculture in Kisumu is possible.  Victoria Eco-Farm deals in poultry, dairy, bee keeping, and the rearing of exotic dogs.  The farm has also diversified into agri-tourism, receiving visitors and training both students on attachment and local farmers on best farming practices. Nicholas Omondi, the Director, has become a role model for emerging food producers in the agriculture sector.
Based on Walt Rostow’s model of economic growth, Kisumu County will not make a sudden and quick leap out of food insecurity. In Stages of Economic Growth, Rostow outlines the five stages that all countries must pass through to become developed: the traditional society; pre-conditions for take-off; take-off; drive to maturity; age of mass consumption. Regrettably, Kisumu County is still at the stage of a traditional society that is characterized by subsistence agriculture, limited funding and technological innovation, and low economic mobility.
The pre-conditions for take-off will only be fulfilled when the county government, acting in collaboration with the national government, provides adequate incentives for agricultural development. More food crops need to be introduced to farmers in Kisumu County. There is also an urgent need to revitalize existing sectors such as the sugar and fishing industries. The county’s potential to become a prime producer of rice also needs to be actualized.
Reform-oriented policies such as titling and surveying are needed in order to transform the existing models of landholding and land ownership. Farming communities in the county also require extensive sensitization and training on emerging technologies and innovations. Most importantly, existing lacklustre attitudes to farming as an economic activity among Kisumu County residents will need to be addressed.
However, the current tax regime is inimical to the drive to boost food security and needs urgent review. In effect, no serious gains can be made in the agriculture sector anywhere in the country as long as the national government continues to insist on enforcing policies that increase production costs and make it cheaper to import food from Tanzania and Uganda than to grow it at home.
The current tax regime is inimical to the drive to boost food security and needs urgent review.
Leaders must realize that whether they are in the opposition or in government, relations with state agencies, especially those in the agriculture sector, are key to developing farming in Kisumu County, that in the interest of economic development, they must always be in constant touch with the government for purposes of support, lobbying and relaying feedback in development processes. Existing attitudes and brands of politics that lead to self-marginalization must be removed at all costs.
It must be recognised, however, that the county government has taken initial steps to start addressing the challenge of food insecurity. In partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the county government has established a youth-focused Food Liaison Advisory Group (FLAG), leading to the promotion of urban agriculture, the strengthening of rural mechanisms for food production and initiating programmes for the training and deployment of agricultural extension officers.
It is to be hoped that such initiatives will contribute towards alleviating the food insecurity situation that the residents of Kisumu County continue to grapple with.

This article is part of The Elephant Food Edition Series done in collaboration with Route to Food Initiative (RTFI). Views expressed in the article are not necessarily those of the RTFI.
Polls and Ballots: Getting Into the ‘Weeds’ of Election-Based Survey Research
The Axis-of-Evil Coalition in the Horn of Africa
WHO Neutrality in a Time of Crisis at Home: The Case of Dr Ghebreyesus
How Twitter’s Negligence is Harming Kenya’s Democracy
Where is Exiled Former Rwandan Journalist Cassien Ntamuhanga?
The Abortion Debate: A Personal and Anthropological Perspective
Kisumu County’s Fragile Food Security
Book Review: Lords of Impunity by Rasna Warah
Copyright © 2017-2022 The Elephant. All Rights Reserved.


Leave a Comment