Save sugar sector and give us jobs, Ruto told

President William at Nzoia Sugar grounds where he pledged to ensure the planned leasing of State mills goes on unhindered. [ Benjamin Sakwa, Standard] 

President William Ruto spent Thursday night and a better part of yesterday in meetings at Kakamega State Lodge where local leaders are said to have reminded him to fulfil the pre-election promises he made to the Luhya community, including reviving the sugar sector.

Sources said the leaders, who included UDA officials also told Ruto to fulfil his promise to give the community 30 per cent of government slots.

"The issue of 30 per cent of government positions the community was promised made it to the table with local leaders saying the region helped the president to narrowly win the 2022 presidential election against Raila Odinga.

Among those who attended the meeting at the lodge in Milimani Estate in Kakamega were National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang'ula, Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale and Ruto's long-time ally and former Mumias East MP, Benjamin Washiali. 

Dr Khalwale said he attended the Friday morning sessions which were short and were also attended by "very senior UDA officials".

"I was allowed into the meeting, alongside Washiali. Wetang'ula represented Bungoma but Musalia Mudavadi (from Vihiga County) was missing. I guess he is busy with his foreign affairs duties but a few people from Vihiga also met the president," he said. 

He said yesterday's meeting revolved around the president's today's meetings, and "other things that I cannot mention".

Washiali, on the other hand, said: "We discussed the stabilization of the sugar sub-sector which is the main economic mainstay of the region. We mentioned Mumias Sugar and whether the current investor should keep running the mill or find another with better capacity," 

"We also touched on the thorny issue of reward to party loyalists as promised by the President. You all know that people like myself who served as UDA regional coordinator towards the wake of the last general election have not been slotted in senior positions when my opposites in other regions are on salary. There are so many like me from the region," said Washiali.  

The veteran politician who served three straight terms as Mumias East lawmaker said they also discussed understaffing in Kakamega schools and Technical Training Institutions (TTI) and the need to renovate the State Lodge to give it a "State House Look." 

"After demolition of structures around the Lodge we told the President that we have enough space to expand the Lodge to meet the said standards," he said. 

Another UDA insider said they had a lengthy meeting on Thursday night following the Bungoma sugarcane farmers and leader’s engagement at Nzoia Sugar Grounds where the Head of State publicly differed on ideology with MPs opposed to the planned leasing of Nzoia Sugar for at least 30 years. 

Some of the MPs had threatened to snub all the President's events in Bungoma unless the government revokes the leasing bid adverts but turned up at the Nzoia Sugar Grounds to express their views against the planned leasing. 

They had to first sit down with the President and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua for about half an hour before they proceeded to the venue of the main meeting where the stakeholders of the 46-year-old factory were waiting. 

An insider disclosed that the half an hour meet was to iron out burning issues and decide who was to speak at the main meeting, an arrangement that saw farmers and their representatives denied an opportunity to address the gathering on the hot potato topic of Nzoia leasing unlike earlier scheduled. 

"After the postmortem at the Lodge and meeting the party organ representatives and elected leaders from the larger western, the President dispatched us to go and rest on Friday until Saturday (today) where he will have a series of events and rallies," said the UDA official. 

Today is indeed a busy one for the President who is touring western Kenya just a fortnight after his political arch rival Raila combed the region to launch mass ODM party registration to strengthen his party. 

His Saturday itinerary shows he will visit the Northern end of Kakamega Lugari Constituency then move to Central Kakamega constituencies of Ikolomani and Shinyalu before ending the day in Southern Kakamega Khwisero Constituency. 

He will among other things officially open TTIs, Kenya Medical Training Colleges and inspect a number of government projects. 

After the development trips on Saturday the President will gather for a word of prayer at the Bukhungu Stadium tomorrow (Sunday) in the heart of Kakamega Town before flying out. 

Kakamega Bishops and Pastors Association head Julius Abungana confirmed that the President notified them of the interdenominational prayers at Bukhungu albeit on short notice. 

"We welcome him and hope that he has a sit down with us on Saturday so that we have enough time to share with him on the people's expectations and on our view on his leadership," he said. 

Maseno North Diocese Bishop Emeritus Simon Oketch asked the Head of State to apologize for the government demolition of houses in Milimani Estate Block III during the prayers saying most of the affected were innocent purchasers who should not bear consequences. 

The bishop who has played key host of the President in his numerous religious visits in Kakamega since his time as deputy president said he could as well compensate them for the loss and stop further demolitions. 

"If possible he (Ruto) can initiate a programme of compensating them because besides legally buying the land, they invested heavily in developing it and even had binding court orders to stop the demolitions as they waited to be heard by the courts," he said.  

"It was a sorry affair and he must address that issue during the interdenominational prayers."