There are deadly deliberate manipulations by West Kenya Sugar Company to kill the construction of Busia Sugar Industry’s more than Kshs. 5 billion factory before it even begins production.
The manipulations are also aimed at denying Busia County residents more than 2,500 jobs at the factory, more than 20000 farmers denied contracts to supply sugarcane and above all infrastructural development of the affected areas.
These saw the West Kenya sugar Company abandon the land it had bought in Matayos division hoping to be licensed to construct a factory to turn to the Olepito area within the Busia Sugar Industries 47 square kms radius where it had initially bought land to build a centre to transport sugarcane it had poached from farmers contracted to Mumias Sugar Company in Busia County.
It is from these developments that the leaders, the farmers and stakeholders in the entire Busia County must support the successful completion and operationalization of the more than Kshs. 5 billion Busia Sugar Industries (BSI) factory at Busibwabo to save the industry from collapse.
Now for the first time since independence, Busia Sugar Industries is constructing the first factory to ever grace the lands of the county; though not yet operational there is no any other factory or processing/manufacturing facility of any kind that the county can boast of.
The quest for the construction of a factory in the county not only to provide a ready market for locally produced raw materials, but also provide employment opportunities for thousands of the jobless from the county begun in earnest in the late 1970s/early 1980s through the
efforts of former cabinet ministers from the county.
These included the late Dr. Mukasa Mango, the late Peter Habenga Okondo, the late Pancras Otwani, James Osogo, Phillip Masinde, the former Vice President Moody Awori and Chris Okemo without any success until after their exit from politics.
Though BSI begun constructing its sugar factory in Busia County during the second part of the retired President Kibaki administration, there was extremely minimal political leverage for it to take off since there was already existing a more than 800 acres of land bought by the government to construct a sugar factory in the 1990s, but until tomorrow that factory is yet to be seen.
With the BSI factory which was supposed to fully operational by April this year, since its construction was nearing completion, the machinations and manipulations of West Kenya set in to derail its completion.
That is through well-orchestrated and executed deliberate and deadly actions by West Kenya Sugar Company using financially compromised local individuals to lodge endless fake legal actions stopping the construction of the facility.
The legal battles engineered by West Kenya have since seen persistent disruptions to the construction of the county’s first and only promising factory as West Kenya grinds its destructive and retrogressive axes to dominate the sugar sub-sector in the western Kenya region.
That is albeit even illegally constructing a sugar factory at Olepito area as seen in a letter from the Agriculture Food and Fisheries Authorities (AFFA) to the West Kenya Managing Director Taj Rai dated 8th April 2015 signed by AFFA boss, Rosemary Mkok.
The letter stopping construction of the illegal sugar factory in Busia County at Olepito near Tangakona on the Busia – Mumias highway, a few kilometres from the BSI factory site in Busibwabo was indeed provoked West Kenya’s breach of the law and laid down procedures as dictated by the Sugar Act without any single application for its construction from
AFFA worse still without any clearance or application from the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) among other relevant government law enforcement agencies.
Despite the AFFA warning letter, the factory is near completion bringing into question why the temerity to disobey the law? Why the impunity to disregard not only the law, but also procedure?
Mr. Rai is known to have acquired West Kenya Sugar Company in Kabras area of Kakamega County under questionable circumstances from the late Biku Patel family.
He also operates another in Nyanza called Sukari crowned by another in Uganda called Kinyara – all of which on the Kenyan part are operating without contracted sugarcane farmers as required by law hence the sugarcane poaching crisis that brought Mumias Sugar Company to its knees.
The others worst hit by the poaching triggered by Mr. Rai and his operatives, include Butali Sugar Company in Kakamega County and Nzoia Sugar Company in Bungoma County thereby automatically setting into destruction the only economic backbone of the Western Kenya region – sugarcane as a cash crop with Busia County bearing the brunt of the problem.
The other glaring illegality in the Mr. Rai operations in Busia County is the fact that his illegal factory at Olepito which initially started off as a buying centre for sugarcane poached from farmers contracted to Mumias Sugar has been illegally constructed within the official radius of 47 square kilometres for Busia Sugar Industries.
The Rai cartel has also constructed its factory about ten metres from a major busy highway instead of at least 5 kilometres away from a major busy highway like the rest of the sugar factories in the country, therefore endangering the lives of the users of the major
highway that includes travelers to neighbouring country Uganda.
Documents seen by this writer from the BSI show that the company cleared all the necessary government requirements before it was allowed to start construction, but now its efforts have been and continue to be consistently and persistently frustrated through litigation engineered by West Kenya Sugar Company – simply because the courts give orders to stop construction of the factory until the matter is heard and determined.
With that follows the deliberately executed postponements of the hearings and determinations of the cases. In most times when judgement is delivered in favour of BSI appeals are immediately lodged and there begins yet another vicious circle of endless legal battles.
On the ground the investor continues losing hundreds of millions of shillings in stalled work in the name of constructing the first and only ever sugar or any other processing/manufacturing factory in Busia County.
The operations of the Taj Rai cartel are well known in the western Kenya region having started with the deadly deliberate machinations and manipulations by yet another company owned by the cartel Rai Play in Eldoret to finish the country’s only paper and newsprint factory.
In the operations against the multi-billion shillings Webuye Panpaper Mills Ltd right from the 1980s through the 1990s saw the giant factory collapse and it was all through sabotaging the company’s raw materials in which Rai Ply had huge business interests through Raiply.
After staying collapsed for more than two decades with thousands of Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega, Vihiga, Uasin Gishu and other neighbouring counties’ residents left jobless, Taj Rai this year bought the factory at a pittance to play around with it as he wishes.
With that accomplished the next target was yet another giant manufacturing facility and the leading sugar producer in the country – Mumias Sugar Company with the primary target being the raw materials – hence the poaching crisis that has brought Mumias Sugar to its knees
yet West Kenya at the centre of all these operations has no single sugarcane farmer contracted to its credit to supply it with the raw material.
This brings in the question of whether this miller with the factory in Uganda’s Kinyara and Sukari in Nyanza is not just playing deadly games to bring the entire sugar industry to its knees as he rakes in huge questionable profits by smuggling sugar from Uganda and re-packaging it at its facilities in Busia County to be sold on the local market as local products to un-suspecting consumers.
It is from this background that leaders, stakeholders and the government must take a firm stand to ensure that a single cartel is not allowed to wreak havoc in the country’s delicate sugar industry by ensuring that all these illegal operations are brought to a total standstill.