by Daniel Ooko
NAIROBI, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's parliament has given the government the green light to seek 7.9 billion shillings (about 99.1 million U.S. dollars) to buy food for the hungry citizens.
The plan faced failure after lawmakers on Wednesday refused to allow the government to guarantee a loan to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) for the purchase of relief food for the hungry.
National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende late on Thursday restored the plan when he denied that it was against the law as a section of lawmakers have claimed.
Members of Parliament had attempted to derail the plan and they refused to authorize the ministry of finance to underwrite the proposed NCPB loan.
The money, to be borrowed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is meant for the procurement of maize and rice to feed more than 10 million people facing starvation.
Acting Finance minister John Michuki has sought MPs' permission through a sessional paper to guarantee the loan.
But the MPs argued that the amount is far above the ceiling set by section three of the Guarantee (Loans) Act, Cap 461, forcing the speaker to suspend debate on the issue until Friday.
In his ruling on Thursday, Marende said the amount sought was far less than the revised ceiling of the Guarantee (Loans).
He said the ceiling was amended in 1993 to increase the limit of the government contingent borrowing from 40 billion shillings to 80 billion shillings.
"Sessional Paper Number 1 of 2009 is properly (put) before the House as the amount sought to be guaranteed falls well below the ceiling provided by the guarantee (Loans) Act," said Marende.
Kenya, sub-Saharan Africa's fifth-largest corn producer, has said it has sufficient corn only to last until February.
Kenya's food crisis has been blamed on underproduction by small-scale farmers, climate change and disruption of the main planting season following last year's post-election crisis.
Some 10 million Kenyans need food aid because of shortages and the government has appealed for emergency funds to deal with the matter.
The UN World Food Program (WFP) said on Thursday it will increase food aid to 3.2 million hungry Kenyans who are facing food crisis.
WFP spokeswoman Gabrielle Menezes told journalists in Nairobi that the UN agency plans to provide food aid for 3.2 million adults and infants and 850,000 school students.
Menezes said the organization is currently carrying out an assessment in the affected parts to determine the extent of the famine and drought that has left about 10 million people or more starving.
Last week, President Mwai Kibaki appealed for 463 million U.S. dollars to tackle the emergency food crisis in Kenya where millions likely go to bed hungry due to crop failure and 2007 political turmoil.
Kenya, the East Africa's biggest economy, is still recovering from the post-election violence which left over a thousand peopledead. The country was one of the first to be hit by riots as a result of hikes in food prices last year.