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Kenya declares emergency over food shortage

Kenya's president  declared a national disaster Wednesday because of his country's food shortage.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki addresses diplomats Wednesday in Nairobi.Sayyid Azim / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

President Mwai Kibaki declared Kenya’s food shortage a national disaster on Wednesday, saying some 3.3 million Kenyans need emergency food assistance because of a widespread drought.

Kibaki said more than 60 percent of Kenya’s crops will fail this year.

“I appeal to both the local and international community to complement our efforts in combating the negative effects of this severe drought,” Kibaki said.

A U.N. report this week found that 1.8 million Kenyans need food aid over the next six months.

Kibaki said Kenya needs 172,000 tons or $76 million in food aid. Some $32 million more is needed for sanitation, water, nutrition and livestock services, he said.

Kibaki’s call for help came one day after Britain’s ambassador suggested international aid could be cut off because of a resurgence in corruption in the East African nation.

British High Commissioner Edward Clay told British investors on Tuesday that corruption has cost Kenya an estimated $192 million under Kibaki.

“Evidently the practitioners now in government have the arrogance, greed and perhaps a desperate sense of panic to lead them to eat like gluttons,” Clay said in remarks published in The East African Standard newspaper.

Kenyan Vice President Moody Awori called Clay’s remarks “a mistake.”

“If you have evidence of any wrongdoing, then it is clear you call in the police,” he said.

President pledged to halt graft
Kibaki was elected in December 2002 largely because of his promises to battle graft. Corruption had been widespread under his predecessor, Daniel arap Moi.

Confidence soared after Kibaki’s victory, and donors late last year resumed lending to Kenya three years after its aid was largely cut off.

But the European Union, United States and Japan earlier this month warned of resurgent corruption, echoing concerns by some Kenyan officials.

Wednesday’s national disaster declaration allows the government to waive duties on imported maize — Kenya’s food staple — and to spend more than had been budgeted for food, presidential spokesman Isaiah Kabira said.