Kakamega County wants out of court deal with sugar company on road usage

West Kenya Sugar Company trucks loaded with sugarcane in Kakamega County. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

The county government of Kakamega is seeking an out-of-court settlement in a case where West Kenya Sugar Company has sued it for impounding its cane transporting trailers.

The county government has accused the sugar miller of violating traffic laws while using roads within Kakamega's Central Business District (CBD).

The government does not want the trailers on its roads over claims of violating its by-laws.

County government askaris have gone ahead to impound West Sugar trailers that were found passing through Kakamega town.

The county asked Kakamega Senior Principal Magistrate Joseph Ndururi to give it time to resolve the dispute with the miller.

The sugar millers' trailers were only released following a court order.

"Before we begin the hearing, we apply for additional time to engage with the petitioner on possibilities of handling this case out of court," county attorney Vivianne Komwonyo said.

Mr Ndururi asked West Kenya lawyer Raymond Olendo whether he was of the same opinion. He accepted the alternative dispute resolution but on condition that the injunction barring the county government from confiscating the company's cane trailers that pass through Kakamega's CBD is extended as negotiations go on.

"I extend the injunction orders for 30 days to enable the two parties to find a solution out of court failure to which the case will proceed to a full hearing," said Ndururi.

The company that manufactures Kabras Sugar sued the county two weeks ago after the government confiscated their five cane trailers that were ferrying about 200 tons of sugarcane, saying they flouted county road use by-laws.

West Kenya protested the move and told the court the action would affect strict sugar milling timelines as sugarcane has to be milled within 24 hours after harvesting.

"Detaining the trucks loaded with the sugarcane results in loss of revenue for the company as the sucrose content goes down rapidly when not processed on time. Over 20,000 sugarcane farmers supported through this route (where trailers were impounded) are now frustrated by the action of impounding the cane haulage trucks," said Olendo.

While the county government claimed it impounded the trucks for abusing traffic by laws which govern what class of vehicles use which road, the Shamberere-based company said they were using the Kenya National Highway Authority (Kenha) road, which is for all categories of vehicles.

"There is no official communication or notice from the County of Kakamega informing us to change the route for our cane haulage trucks ferrying sugarcane across the town," said Olendo in the court papers.

He added: "There is also no law or regulations which have been passed by the county government or Kenha and communicated to the general public barring the use of the road by a certain class of motor vehicles, especially the cane haulage trucks."

The company at the same time wondered why trucks from other sugar factories were accessing Kakamega's CBD unrestrained. He said the move to impound their trucks was calculated at sabotaging their transport operations and giving an unfair advantage to its competitors as the sugar industry is now experiencing sugarcane shortage.