Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Korir Singoei has sharply differed with Moses Kuria over the push to close down China Square, a move that has raised questions over whose interests the Trade Cabinet Secretary is representing on the matter.
It is uncommon for senior government officials more so a PS and CS to speak differently over the same issue more so in public. Kuria last Friday stroke controversy after he asked Kenyatta University who are the owners of Unicity Mall to purchase China City’s lease and hand it over to Kenyan traders.
The reason for his preferred move, he said, is that Chinese investors are welcome to Kenya, “but as manufacturers, not traders.”
China Square shut down its store on Sunday after its owner Lei Cheng said he was re-evaluating his strategy following claims that it had pushed Kenyan traders out of business. The mall has not opened its doors today.
What is raising questions however is the decision by PS Singoi to publicly rebuke Kuria. As the PS Foreign Affairs part of Singoei’s job is to maintain a harmonious relationship between Kenya and its allies. China is a key ally to Kenya and is her biggest trading partner.
It is said that Kuria is being pushed by businessmen from Central Kenya who have for a long time dominated the importation of goods from China. They feel threatened that the entrance of the Chinese will cut down their profit margins or push them out of the market entirely.
Chinese investors in Kenya have already argued that their role in employment creation and contribution to the Kenyan economy is aligned with the Kenya Kwanza manifesto which seeks to lower the cost of living in the country.
“The Chinese Nationals are open to working and collaborating with Kenyan traders to lower the cost of living for Kenyans. Our goal is not to compete but rather, to develop our economies,” said the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
“We feel discriminated and don’t sit well with the remarks of the Cabinet Secretary for Investments, Trade and Industry to Kenyatta University Vice Chancellor to buy out the lease for China Square at the Unicity Mall.
This is not the first time that Kuria has differed with government officials. In November, Kuria differed with Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi after he claimed that the government needed to import at least 10 million bags of maize in order to bridge a deficit.
Linturi however said that Ministry of Agriculture is the one mandated with import decisions after establishing the shortfall that the country is facing in order to determine the number of bags to be shipped into the country.
“I am not aware of what Kuria said… I am the custodian of statistics on how much food we require in this country and what we consume every day. Right now my technical people have worked on all the deficit in terms of maize, beans and rice,” said Linturi.
The tiff-forced Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi to wade into the matter saying the decision on imports is supposed to be made by the Ministry of Agriculture.
“The issue of importation of maize should be guided by a survey by the Ministry of Agriculture to find out if there is a deficit of the grains… it is agriculture docket that will issue an importation order looking at the food situation in the country,” said Mudavadi.