The recent ruthless brutal murder of two employees of Nzoia Sugar Company by suspected sugarcane poachers is a testimony of the government’s total failure to contain the sugarcane poaching crisis that hit the industry more than five years ago.
Two workers from Nzoia Sugar Company in Bungoma have been killed by people believed to be cane poachers in an escalating, and now deadly, war for the region’s only cash crop and economic backbone. The number who have died within the last month now stands at three.
It is very clear that the poaching crisis was triggered by West Kenya Sugar Company which of all the sugarcane milling companies in the western Kenya region does not have any contracted farmers to supply it with the raw material as stipulated by the law.
The sugar companies in the region with contracted sugarcane farmers that have been adversely hit by the sugarcane poaching crisis are the giant Mumias Sugar Company in Kakamega County whose farmers were the biggest target thus resulting in posting huge losses in billions of shillings since it was established in 1976.
Mumias Sugar is followed by Nzoia Sugar Company in Bungoma County whose workers are the latest victims of the deadly operations of the Sugarcane poachers backed by West Sugar Company whose owners are illegally constructing another sugar factory in Busia County.
Then we have Butali Sugar Company whose factory is also in Kakamega County in fact neighbouring West Kenya’s in Kabras both in Malava Sub-county – the truth is that the crude exploitative manner in which West Kenya was handling farmers who no contracts with it triggered the establishment of Butali which started contracting farmers.
With sugarcane farmers trooping to Butlai, West Kenya was left in the red and had no option but to resort to sugarcane poaching to survive and that is why its agents are ready to ruthlessly kill even the crippled totally helpless individual.
According to Nzoia Sugar Company Public Relations Manager Gilbert Owinothere could have been more murdered but others had to run for their dear lives as the cane poachers went on the deadly ruthless attack.
“Unfortunately one of the two dead was a crippled man and could not run away to escape from the surging attackers. They smashed him and even ran over him with the tractors they were using to ferry the sugarcane. He died a grisly painful death for trying to fight or resist the illegal poaching activities that have ruined the sugar industry in this region,” says Owino.
The Company’s Chief Executive, Godfrey Wanyonyi avers that the deadly sugarcane poaching operations have seriously adversely affected the performance of the company because the cane supplies were very low forcing them to resort to using immature sugarcane with low sucrose content.
He says the worst aspect of the poaching crisis is the insecurity situation that it was posing in the entire western Kenya region particularly in Kakamega, Bungoma and Busia Counties that are leading in sugarcane production.
Indeed Busia County has not been spared from the deadly poaching crisis that is likely to degenerate into worse killings than is currently being witnessed because Taj Rai the kingpin behind the West Kenya has defied the AFFA orders and gone ahead to build a sugar factory at Olepito area on the Busia – Mumias highway near Tangakona which was initially a base for collecting sugarcane poached from farmers contracted to Mumias Sugar in Busia County.
The factory construction in a wetland area does not have clearance from the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), but if Taj Rai can defy AFFA the sugar industry regulating Authority and get away with it, then what is NEMA – the worst aspect of the whole imbroglio is that even in Busia County the company has not bothered to have fair contracts with the farmers.
The story does not stop there, because the same rubble rousers are giving hell to the only first sugar factory to ever be constructed in Busia County by Busia Sugar Industries (BSI) where West Kenya’s factory broke the law requiring that sugar factories must be within 47 square kilometre radius by encroaching its factory within the radius of BSI’s factory at Nasewa.
The worst aspect of the whole phenomenon is the fact that the security and the Director of Public Prosecution’s (DPP) offices have since the eruption of the poaching crisis completely proved they are emasculated to contain or stamp out the vice – otherwise there would be no poaching or killings happening as it is today.
The Western Development Initiative Association (WEDIA) which blew the whistle when the sugarcane poaching erupted more than five years ago, warned that the problem could easily escalate into violence and it did not long for the poachers even to kill a policeman and several civilians at that early stage.
With the situation degenerating and the security and the law enforcement agencies remaining helpless, what kind of consequences are we going to face in the near future, when Taj Rai and his lot are also left to break the law with impunity?