The decision by the government to torch 761 bags of dried fish on Saturday, April 18, worth Ksh5 million that was intercepted in Mokowe, Lamu County after being smuggled from Somalia has sparked fury from Kenyans.
Kenyans wondered why the fish could not have been inspected to determine if it was fit for human consumption then distributed to the public if it met safety standards.
A multi-agency security team at Mokowe seized the consignment after being ferried from after Mogadishu and Kismayu in Somalia via Lamu’s Kiunga border point. The contraband weighed around 12-tonnes and was packed into sacks which numbered 761.
Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia who presided over the burning of the dried fish give the reasons behind the action.
“We decided to burn the fish because it was contraband. You know contraband is goods whose duty has not been paid.
“The goods were from Somalia destined for the Kenyan market. When it gets into the country, you are never sure about the destination. It can go to Mombasa or anywhere else, I don’t really know where the buyers were,” he stated.
Irungu further gave the rationale behind ignoring suggestions of confiscating and distributing the fish to the needy, especially at a time when many Kenyans were out of work over Covid-19.
“You know Ivory costs a lot of money, why don’t we sell it and inject the cash to our economy?
“The fish could not be distributed because contraband is contraband no matter the value, so when you get contraband you have to make sure that you destroy it,” he asserted.
This was inconsistent with a March 2020 decision by the government, in an effort to address the shortage of hand sanitisers amid measures to prevent spread of Covid-19, ordered the use of seized ethanol to manufacture free hand sanitisers for public use.
Irungu explained why this approach was not used with the impounded fish, “They used ethanol to make sanitisers because that is an extraordinary case due to the crisis, so you cannot compare ethanol with other contraband.”
A number of Kenyans expressed their anger at the decision by the government to burn the dried fish.
“Why not distribute it to the needy…burning of food is an abomination in the African culture,” one stated.
“State should apply the same wisdom in money recovered from corruption, we are sufficient, we got no problems at all,” quipped another.
“Instead of destroying all those bags, they should have been tested and checked if they’re fit for human consumption, during this Covid-19, they could have saved one or two families if not three but our government are failures,” one more netizen argued.