It took President William Ruto’s three matching orders for the lengthy court circus surrounding the lease of Mumias Sugar Company to finally come to a stop.
When President Ruto spoke last month, he demanded that parties entangled in the Mumias court battle to withdraw the case, or else he would jail them, or they would be ‘sent to heaven’.
From the statement, it appeared that the Head of State was unhappy with the circus around Mumias Sugar’s collapse. The president further stated that the wrangles in court had impaired any efforts to resuscitate the miller, which has been reeling in a state of comatose.
Even with the re-start button being pushed by the Executive, the battle in the corridors of justice seemed to halt the process that started in 2022. But court battles notwithstanding, Sarrai Group Ltd brought Mumias Sugar’s roar back, and from 2022, the miller started crushing 1,000 tonnes of cane per day.
The circus started during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s time. Uhuru, however, let the courts deal with the issue even as it was clear that the government was keen to have Mumias Sugar roar back to life, under Sarrai’s leadership. In the case, the National Treasury backed the receiver manager Ramano Rao’s decision to hand the miller to Sarrai Group.
Former Treasury Principal Secretary (PS) Julius Muia, in his affidavit, argued that it would be of no help to hand Mumias to a competitor or a company with milling machines within the same area. Dr Muia, in his argument before Commercial Court, said for the leasing process to be successful, the best bidder should be able to turn Mumias to profitability.
The PS took a cue from Rao who argued that he dropped off West Kenya Sugar Company from the bid race due to a conflict of interest. This is despite the company offering the highest financial bid.
Out of President Ruto’s directive, West Kenya and its director Jaswant Rai, withdrew from the case challenging Mumias Sugar’s takeover by Sarrai.
Rai also withdrew a separate case he had filed against the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, the Attorney General, the Inspector General of Police and the Immigration Department over the same Mumias saga.
“Take notice that West Kenya Sugar Company Limited and Jaswant Singh Rai, the 1st and 2nd interested parties/applicants herein, hereby wholly discontinue and withdraw their claim in this suit,” reads the notice by Rai and West Kenya lawyer Gitonga.
Dubai-based firm Vertox also dropped out of the case, and lawyer Jackline Kimeto withdrew hers too but later wrote to court claiming she was forced to do so.
The battle over Mumias seemed to be coming to a close, with the government also writing off Sh117 billion owed to it by sugar companies.