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Calls for re-introduction of sugar probe report welcome

By The Standard | Published Thu, August 16th 2018 at 00:00, Updated August 16th 2018 at 09:25 GMT +3

Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Chairman Kanini Kega explains the contents of the parliamentary report on the sugar scandal at the White Rhino hotel in Nyeri County. [Photo: Mose Sammy]

Pertinent questions on the importation of contraband sugar won’t be going away just yet. All the queries that a parliamentary committee sought to answer following a public hue and cry over the possibility of the sugar-containing mercury, lead and copper are still pending. Kenyans do not yet know who the importers of the sugar are.

They also do not know why Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich failed to specify the amount of sugar to be imported, basically to only cover the immediate shortfall, but more importantly, to protect the local industry.

Claims that the contraband sugar contained harmful metals have not been dispelled, and neither do Kenyans have any guarantee that no contaminated sugar is finding its way onto supermarket shelves and finally into houses, where it could pose serious health risks.

These are questions that a compromised House failed to answer. It was a betrayal of the trust Kenyans have in their elected leaders, made worse by claims by a few Members of Parliament that their colleagues took bribes of between Sh10,000 and Sh30,000 to reject a damning report compiled by the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Trade, Industry and Co-operatives that investigated the matter.

It would have been further betrayal of the people of Kenya if elected leaders from the predominantly sugarcane growing regions stood by and watched while the livelihoods of small-scale farmers in the sugar belt were taken away by a few greedy individuals.

With the market flooded with cheap imports that, as alleged, could last three years, where does the sugarcane farmer sell his produce? It does not help that failure to vigorously defend the interests of farmers have sent the major sugar millers into the red financially.

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When, therefore, a group of MPs from the sugar-growing regions of Western Kenya demand the re-introduction of the rejected sugar report in Parliament, they have the backing of all well-meaning Kenyans. Only the truth will set us free, and nobody with vested interests should be allowed to kill that truth.

However, having lost public trust, Parliament might not be the institution to finally put the matter to rest. It might be necessary, as some leaders have suggested, to have a commission of inquiry look into the matter.

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