Ruto caught up in poisonous food saga in Kiambu county

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020 00:00 |
One of the food poisoning victims Sylvia Wanjiru at Gikambura Police Post in Kikuyu constituency yesterday. Photo/PD/CLEMENT KAMAU

Mathew Ndung’u

At least 12 people were admitted to Kiambu and Thika Level Five hospitals yesterday after consuming contaminated food distributed in Kikuyu sub-county on Sunday evening.

Kiambu Governor James Nyoro yesterday confirmed that the 12 are among 20 people who fell sick after consuming food allegedly donated by Deputy President William Ruto and Kikuyu Member of Parliament Kimani Ichung’wa. 

The victims, mainly from Karai and Nachu centres, complained of stomach pains, vomiting and swollen tongues after consuming the food which included maize flour and green grammes.

Those with less severe symptoms were treated at Rose Gate and Gikambura Health Centre and discharged.

“We sent out administration and health teams there and dispatched two ambulances. I am told 12 of them have been taken to our health facilities. 

“Our team has confirmed the incident of distribution of contaminated food is true.

Our health team is on the ground and has taken samples to determine what type of contamination the food had,” the governor said at a press conference in his office.

Locals said the sugar, cooking oil, maize flour and green grammes, was packed in bags bearing the Ruto Foundation label and was allegedly handed out by people in a Toyota Land Cruiser with concealed registration numbers.

Esther Wambuku, a victim, said her family started experiencing stomachache and vomiting after consuming rice and tea made using the sugar. Wambuku also said her tongue started swelling.

“We could not go to the hospital at night because of the curfew, and we were advised to drink a lot of water and the symptoms eased. 

“We went to the hospital this morning (yesterday) and we were given medicine,” Wambuku said.

Another victim, Paul Kang’ethe said: “They were driving very fast as they threw out food packed in paper bags which bore the inscription, ‘Kikuyu Constituency, Together We Shall Overcome. Stay Safe; William Ruto Foundation and Kimani Ichung’wa.”  

But yesterday the Deputy President and the MP denied allegations that they were behind distribution the food and blamed it on “political thuggery”.

Political scheme

“It is revolting, despicable, callous and cruel to play with the health and lives of innocent human beings to score political points. Human life and dignity are higher than any political agenda. 

“Those behind this incident are irresponsible, barbaric savages who have no place in civilised society,” Ruto said in a press statement issued by his press secretary David Mugonyi.

Ichung’wa termed the incident “evil”, saying it was a well-calculated scheme to sabotage the DP’s food donation programme and to injure him politically. 

“Why poison people in the name of fighting us? Those behind the evil plot are those scared of Ruto’s rising popularity in Central region ahead of the 2022 elections,” he said even as he fought claims that the DP’s supporters were behind the incident in a bid to attract sympathy in the wake of the Jubilee Party purge by President Uhuru Kenyatta that has left the DP politically wounded. 

Ruto, who has kept a low profile since the purge which started in the Senate, only came out last Wednesday on a low-key mission to distribute food to people affected by Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. 

He was accompanied by  Ichung’wa during the exercise at Ruthigiti PCEA Church, Kikuyu.

Nominated Member of Parliament Maina Kamanda refused to be drawn to social media claims that his vehicle was involved in the distribution of the contaminated food.

“No one has linked me to that incident apart from what I am reading on social media so I refuse to open a window for that discussion,” Kamanda, who belongs to the Kieleweke faction of Jubilee, responded when People Daily contacted him on phone.

Yesterday, Nyoro condemned the poisoning incident, which, he said, appeared to be politically motivated.

“It’s unfortunate we now want to play politics with food distribution or any other issue that relates to Covid-19,” Nyoro said.

Kiambu County Commissioner Wilson Wanyanga told People Daily that he had asked families that had received the food to take it the Karai chief’s office to facilitate investigations, including sending samples to the Government Chemist.

Ruto’s statement said his foundation delivers relief food through formal networks such as churches and mosques and works with local leaders to ensure the food gets to the right people.

“The William Ruto Foundation would like to categorically and unequivocally distance itself from the distribution of relief food that has affected residents of Kikuyu constituency.

The donations in question are not from the William Ruto Foundation,” Mugonyi said in a statement.

Ichung’wa, a staunch supporter of the DP, said the food given by Ruto was well packaged and from recognised manufacturers unlike the one distributed in Gikambura “which was packed hurriedly and in small quantities”.

The County Commissioner said police had launched investigations to establish who distributed the food and the motive, but added they were experiencing challenges because the DP had not followed government procedures while delivering his donation and locals did not mark the vehicle that distributed it.

“The DP did not follow the government systems just like those who delivered the toxic food.

But this should be a warning to Kenyans not to accept food from anybody. We have systems and channels that can help us avoid such,” Wanyanga said.

He noted that since Ruto and the local MP had delivered their donations through their own means last week, it was easy for the locals to fall for the contaminated food, which was branded in the DP and Ichun’gwa’s favour.

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