Ruto: Feud should not hurt sugar industry

President William Ruto speaks at Bungoma airstrip on August 27, 2023. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

President William Ruto has vowed to dismantle cartels causing confusion in the sugar sub-sector.

Dr Ruto, who is on a five-day tour of the Western region, said cartels have frustrated the government agenda to revive Mumias Sugar Company.

Speaking in Mumias West constituency where he launched Mumias-Musanda road on Sunday, Ruto said he would not tolerate two investors embroiled in a protracted tussle over the control of the debt-ridden Mumias Sugar Company.

Billionaire Jaswant Rai, the owner of West Kenya Sugar Company, and his tycoon brother Sarbjit Singh Rai of Uganda-based Sarrai Group, have been fighting over control of the troubled Mumias Sugar Company.

Sarbjit Rai took over the management of the sugar mill about a year ago but Jaswant Rai moved to court contesting the lease arrangement and how it was awarded to his brother.

But President Ruto insists he will not allow the Rai brothers to continue stifling efforts to revive the sugar factory.

He was responding to demands by Mumias East MP Peter Salasya, who asked the president to intervene and deal with cartels who he claimed had resorted to using the courts to scuttle the government's plans to revamp Mumias Sugar Company.

“We just want you to issue an order to stop West Kenya Sugar Company owner from filing cases in court against Mumias Sugar so that the sugar mill can resume operations, and if that is achieved, I will shift my political allegiance to you,” Salasya told the president.

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale said after waiving debts owed by sugar mills, what was remaining was for the president to ensure cases filed in court to stop Mumias Sugar from producing ethanol and venturing into the co-gen project were withdrawn.

Ruto said both investors fighting over the control of Mumias ought to exit the scene to pave the way for a strategic investor.

“I have heard my friend Salasya mention cartels in the sugar industry, but I want to tell you that being the president, I am aware of the things than you do, and I am better informed."

“This is public property and we will not allow individuals to grab property belonging to the people,” said the president.

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