Two killed as Miwani Sugar Company woes deepen

The deserted Miwani sugar company in Kisumu county in a picture taken on February 6, 2017. [File, Standard]

The woes facing struggling miller Miwani Sugar factory turned fatal after two people were killed while scores of others sustained injuries following an attempt by a private firm to take over the property.

In a shocking incident that stunned Miwani village on Wednesday, two vehicles were torched and a large swathe of sugarcane was burnt in the company's nucleus estate.

This is after an auctioneer in the company of youths armed with crude weapons raided the premises to evict workers of the miller from the property.

Trouble started moments after the group entered the facility and sought an audience with the management before allegedly ordering them to leave the premises immediately.

They briefly engaged workers in a scuffle before shifting their attention to Chermusoi Staff quarters and sought to forcefully evict staff and learners at an Early Childhood Centre.

A number of minors were treated to a morning of horror as a fight ensued between the group and villagers who responded to distress calls from the staff, teachers and learners.

Within moments, teachers and the young learners scampered for safety as villagers attacked the group with bows and arrows in an attempt to dispel them.

When the dust settled, two people who were among the group that had come to effect the evictions lay dead while property of unknown value was destroyed.

Dickson Omondi, the workers' secretary told journalists that the developments caught them by surprise.

"They stormed the company and ordered us out and claimed that they were effecting an eviction order," said Omondi.

He however claimed that they were not served with any notice of eviction.

Police said they would hold the auctioneering company responsible and faulted the manner in which they attempted to implement the eviction.

Nyanza Regional Police boss Karanja Muiruri termed the attempts illegal.

"The auctioneering firm decided to do things their way, by transporting goods to the scene without informing the police. They must bear responsibility for the mess witnessed," said Muiruri.

In a letter dated February 25 addressed to Kisumu County Commissioner and Kisumu County Commander of Police, the auctioneers had requested security to evict people illegally occupying Miwani Sugar Company land registration number 7545/3.

The parcel of land where the company sits has been at the centre of controversy for nearly three decades and had been a subject of a criminal suit over an alleged fraudulent transfer.

Other entities have also sought to dispose of the land through the courts, including a 1993 case filed by Nagendra Saxena, who obtained an order to sell the property through a public auction.

In October last year, however, Crossley Holdings, an entity that claims the parcel got a reprieve after the Environment and Land Court in Kisumu declared that it owned the land.

Crossley had sought to restrain the miller and four government institutions from laying claim to the land. 

The company had also sought eviction of the miller’s workers and any other assets from the property, and an injunction stopping the parties from selling or leasing the parcel.

The company had listed the sugar company, the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), Kisumu County Government and the Attorney General as respondents.

Crossley had told the court that it acquired the land through a public auction, but the government denied them possession of the land.

At the time of the purchase, the company also claimed that the miller was privately owned, with the government only owning 49 per cent of its shares.

The petitioner argued that the land was valued at Sh696 million but was sold at Sh752 million.

It told the court that it obtained the parcel in December 2007 and its title was registered in 2008.

Miwani Sugar, on its part, said the parcel was fraudulently acquired and described the auction as a sham.

The miller also claimed there was no proof of payment, and alleged that the fraudulent activities involved several people, including a sister company to Crossley Holdings.

The judge ruled that the rights of Crossley were breached.

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