I want to speak out for all the voiceless whether they are poor or rich. And I want to speak candidly.
This is on the issue of the Keroche Breweries, its obligations, importance to the country and compliance with the law. The company has been facing a barrage of attacks from not only MPs from Central province but now the tax man, KRA, is after the humble lady, Tabitha, saying that Keroche has not met its tax obligations.
Though we don’t know each other, I am always inspired by Tabitha Karanja because she is appealing to my heart. I think I would have married her, supported and protected her and we would have had beautiful children. She is an iron lady. The type I admire. I am not a man of kuch kuch hota hai type. I admire strong and determined ladies who will push boundaries to achieve their dreams. Tabitha has built what the country has failed to build, a key manufacturing economy. The woman has built a working production engine employing hundreds who serve the local economy in a way which is uncommon in Kenya.
I say its uncommon because Kenya is turning into a service or sales economy. We buy all from wherever they are produced and sell them locally. We have an economy with less foreign exchange getting in but much more of out cash going out. In effect, the current Kenyan economy is actually having a negative effect on the shilling. We can’t be a country of consumption and minimal production.
During the last coalition government where Kibaki was the president and Raila the PM, in fact October 2008, something occurred at Keroche which will explain what is happening now. Keroche got a Ksh 5 billion financing from Barclays Bank. The company built a new bottling plant then wanted the President to open it to assure her financiers that she had the government’s backing in her operations. She has always been solo.
When she sent out an invite to President Kibaki through his PA, Joe Wanjui, she was assured of the support of the President. Madam Tabitha Karanja wanted President Kibaki to open the new plant. It was until the last minute (2 days to the opening) that someone whispered to her that nothing like that was on Kibaki’s diary. In fact, Kibaki knew but someone had prevailed on him not to open the plant because “huyo sio wetu.”
In the circle of wealthy Kikuyus, you just don’t have to have the money, chums or mbesha but you also need to be cleansed and admitted into the inner circle of the elite who controls the Kenyan economy. You can’t just be a billionaire and have access to the Muthaiga Club which runs the country. You need to be cleansed, analysed and invited into the club. Tabitha Karanja with all her influence, money and expertise has never been allowed anywhere near Muthaiga Club. She can’t wine and dine with the powerful Kikuyus controlling the Kenyan economy. She is an outsider to them.
So back to the story. Tabitha realising that she was played, decided to do the unthinkable. She drove all the way from Naivasha to State House hoping to get to see the President and personally prevail on him to support her. Tabitha was angry, sad and disappointed at the same time. She spent over 1 hour pleading with her State House connections to be allowed to see President Kibaki. She was completely denied access. Hyslop Ipu (then State House Comptroller) was her contact. She had to look for other ways of surviving. She drove to the nearby Serena Hotel to catch a drink, drown her sorrows and recollect herself. She was burning inside.
It took Hyslop Ipu’s assistant to call her and tell her that the battle she was fighting, she was not going to win. The assistant asked her to look for Raila for support. She slapped herself and thought how stupid she was not to think of Raila. She called Oburu to ask if Raila would be comfortable. Oburu said, “WHY NOT.” It was late in the evening and everyone was retired home. She wanted to go see Raila immediately. Oburu gave her the directions and she drove straight to Karen. She got access to Raila and explained her predicament.
After hearing all her stories, Raila told her that on the said date, he had a scheduled event in Kisumu and he would be flying there in his chopper. He agreed to pass by for a maximum of 30 minutes to launch the new production plant then fly to Kisumu. The problem was that Keroche didn’t have a good place to land the chopper. Tabitha promised to build an helipad in a record 48 hours if she was given the specifications. She sure did. When Raila landed at Keroche, he was wowed and dumbstruck. He was shocked by what he was seeing. As an engineer, he knew what he was seeing and he thinks that it’s what Kenya needs. Instead of staying for 30 minutes, Raila stayed for over two hours.
Tabitha has FOREVER been grateful to Raila. That’s why Oburu Odinga was appointed the firm’s chairman.
A previous incident was even more painful. In 2003 when Kibaki went to Nakuru to open his first agricultural show, Keroche was to be feted in the show among the leading manufacturing industries in the region. Everything was set and Tabitha’s seat was on the podium among others’. Just before Kibaki arrived for the show, Michuki ordered that her seat be removed from the podium. Tabitha cried but vowed to soldier on. She was pained. This woman has seen the worst form of treatment.
The targeted frustration of Tabitha Karanja is an ACT of TREASON. Kenya willl never prosper on malls and the service industry alone. Kenya will grow if we build unrivalled manufacturing economy to support the service economy. The service economy needs a much more affluent populace. We can’t say we are developed because every town has an average of two big malls. We must build our production. We must create, innovate and even export. Tea, coffee and flowers is going down. We must support sugar cane, pyrethrum, sunflower, macadamia, sorghum, cotton and onion production.
This is what Tabitha Karanja has been doing.
She is being sabotaged now because the Uhuru wing of the Jubilee coalition thinks that she has been close to Deputy President, William Ruto. Uhuru’s people believe that Ruto is amassing a war chest for his future ambitions. Some insiders told me that Ruto has already, close to Ksh 75 billion which he doesn’t use much. They believe that his ambitions are scary and so they are looking for ways of taming him.
Respected Kenyan blogger, tech evangelist, and social justice activist. Robert is known for his hard-hitting articles and opinions disseminated through his Twitter handle @RobertAlai or Facebook page (www.fb.com/RobertAlai).