Fury as MPs from sugar belt betray suffering farmers

Daniel Mmang’ale in his sugarcane farm in Shinyalu, Kakamega. [File, Standard]
Politicians from western Kenya and the sugar growing areas are coming under pressure for betraying the electorate in Parliament.

As they did this, sugar millers in the region continue to sink, waiting for Government bailouts to remain afloat, as hundreds of thousands of farmers languish in poverty. 

Some vocal leaders from the region, who got votes on the platform of revival of the sugar mills, were conspicuously missing in Parliament when they were most needed by over 300,000 farmers who rely on sugarcane. 

Those who made it to Parliament, apart from a few, were also beneficiaries of the Sh30,000 bribe and helped defeat the report that would have indicted top Government officials. 

Others chose to abstain or just go with the flow despite the importance of the matter on the floor of the House on their constituents and despite having gobbled up millions of shillings in sitting allowances for sessions. 

The largest miller, Mumias Sugar Company and five other publicly owned sugar millers are sinking under the weight of over Sh70 billion debt and counting.

Some of the firms are now up for sale while others in receivership and it is only a matter of time before they stop crashing completely and with them, the fate of thousands. 

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Leaders say the current sugar report, just like the previous one done in 2014 has exposed the parliamentary sessions as a waste of public funds since nothing has come out of if even as farmerscontinue to suffer. 

The sugar industry in Kenya supports directly or indirectly six million Kenyans, which represents about 16 per cent of the national population.  

The sector contributes about 7.5 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and has a major impact on the economies of Western and Nyanza and, to a small extent, the Rift Valley.  

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya said he was shocked that even MPs who come from sugar-growing zones did not join hands to defeat the motion seeking to throw away the report. “What are they going to tell their people when they come home? They are a big disgrace to the sugar cane farmers and have betrayed the revival course of the sugar cane belt,” Mr  Oparanya said in an interview with Saturday Standard

“Some of them abstained from taking a position on such an important matter and this has effectively legalised the excessive sugar cane importation that has crippled sugar companies,” the governor added. 

Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali acknowledged that leaders from Western abandoned the fight of their people but maintained that he will continue pushing for the sugar cane farmers. 

“Despite being a chief whip in Parliament, I am among the very few leaders from the region who have signed a petition seeking to impeach the Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich. But I agree some of the leaders from the region were missing in action. If you watched TV you would easily see who was missing,” Mr Washiali said. 

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala said MPs can no longer be trusted to deal with important national issues that require leadership since the House has become a den of corruption. 

“The National Assembly has become a den of corruption where MPs simply take bribes despite the weighty matters at hand,” Mr Malala said.

He said the Senate should instead be allowed to take over the sugar matter since agriculture is a devolved function. 

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