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Standoff over 843-acre land donated for stalled project

By Ignatius Odanga | May 11th 2020

Residents of Nasewa in Busia want the national government to involve them in its plan for 843-acre land they had donated for setting up of a sugar factory in the area.

The Nasewa Nucleus Estate was returned to the national government in 2018 after more than eight years of court battle.

The locals say they are not against Nasewa Nucleus Estate being used for any other project as long they will benefit from it.

They were speaking following claims that the ministries of Agriculture and National Treasury were keen to give the Busia Sugar Industry a lease to develop cane on the same parcel of land for 50 years.

The management of Busia Sugar Industry (BSI) confirmed to The Standard that they had a plan of using the estate to grow cane to guarantee the factory sufficient raw materials for crushing.

One of the locals, James Obakha, said it would be unfair for the Government to lease the land to Busibwabo-based factory without first having dialogue with area residents.

Activist Okiya Omtatah last week accused the ministries of Agriculture and National Treasury of initiating the lease for the sugar factory.

Mr Omtatah termed the decision to give the parcel to the miller unlawful.

Move to court

In a letter dated May 6, 2020, and addressed to the two ministries, Omatath warned concerned cabinet secretaries that should they not rescind the decision, he will move to court to stop the decision.

The Government acquired the land from residents of Nasewa in the 1990s and handed it over to Busia Sugar Company (BSC) to construct a factory. The firm was never set up and only existed on paper.

BSC was later put under receivership, with Mumias Sugar Company claiming the vast land on grounds that the former owed it Sh100 million.

Mumias later sold the land to a private company, Kaplony Enterprise Ltd. The decision prompted Omtatah to sue Mumias and Busia sugar companies in 2012.

On July 31, 2018, the Environment and Land Court in Bungoma revoked the Busia Sugar Company’s title deed.

The court ruled it was wrong for the land, which was donated by locals, to be allocated to a private company.

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