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Uhuru visits Kisumu in wake of Uganda deals

By Protus Onyango | August 14th 2015

President Uhuru Kenyatta will be in Kisumu today.

The President will be in the lakeside city to preside over the 89th edition of the Kenya National Music Festival winners' concert at the local State House.

It will be the first time Uhuru will be hosted at State House Kisumu. It is also the third time in four months that the President is visiting the city, trips which observers say are meant to win over the Nyanza and Western opposition voting blocs.

State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu confirmed to The Standard that President Kenyatta will be at the event.

"The President is coming for the music festival," Mr Esipisu told The Standard.

The music festival, which has been going on in Kisumu for the last two weeks, saw 130,000 learners from baby class to university compete in 600 categories.

Those who emerge winners in the annual festival get the opportunity to entertain the President and his guests at State House.

Kenyatta comes to Nyanza as Nyanza and Western leaders, led by CORD leader Raila Odinga, have opposed his recent agreement with Uganda for Kenya to import sugar from its neighbour, arguing that it will kill the local sugar industry.

But the President has told off the Opposition, defending his trade deal with Uganda in which Kenya will export meat and dairy products.

"If you want to accuse me of something, then do it but correct me when I am wrong. What cheap sugar? I would rather get it from Uganda than buy it from Brazil," Uhuru told those criticising him over the deal on Wednesday.

But Raila maintained it is not good for the country.

"The deal between Kenya and Uganda is a bad idea. Cheap sugar from Uganda means trouble for the Kenyan farmers," Raila said.

Legislators Florence Mutua (Busia), Fred Outa (Nyando), Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay) and Fatuma Ibrahim (Wajir) who sit on the National Assembly's Agriculture Committee, said the deal was likely to kill struggling local millers, and consign sugarcane farmers to poverty.

They demanded details of the trade agreement that President Uhuru Kenyatta signed with his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni.

"What the President has done is a final blow to our struggling sugar firms in Nyanza and Western. It negates the President's effort to revive the industry," Ms Wanga said.

In July, Uhuru went to the ailing Mumias Sugar Company and handed over a cheque of Sh1 billion to help revive it.

Start paying

According to the company's new Chief Exective Officer Errol Johnson, Sh270 million out the Sh1 billion has been released to start paying farmers.

But Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and his Kisumu counterpart Jacktone Ranguma urged MPs to use the Transitional Government Act to devolve management of sugar companies to county governments.

"If my government has a stake in Mumias Sugar, it will be easier to have a say in how the company is managed. We have supported it by giving money to pay farmers but we want to buy a stake in it so that as shareholders, we play a big role to make it better," Mr Oparanya said.

Mr Ranguma said county governments have the capacity to revive the ailing sugar industry and save the people who rely on the factories for their livelihoods.

"MPs should use the Act and let us superintend over the companies so as to avert the total collapse of the industry. The existence of cheap imported sugar in Kenya is the main reason for the collapse of sugar factories," said Ranguma.

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