President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto on Monday made a pledge to revive ailing Mumias Sugar Company in Kakamega County, as they sought votes from the populous region.
While addressing Jubilee supporters at the Nabongo grounds in Mumias Town, the two leaders said they had already demonstrated desire to revive industries by extending Sh3.2 billion to the sugar miller to make it remain afloat.
They further said that an additional Sh500 million was handed to the factory to pay farmers bringing the total bailout money to Sh3.7 billion.
Mr Ruto, who was the first to arrive, said the sugar miller has a staff of 2,000 employees and a total of 10,000 dependants.
“The Sh500 million we have brought today will be used to directly pay debts owed to farmers,” said Mr Ruto.
The Sh500 million cheque was handed to the board chairman Kennedy Ngumbau.
Mr Ruto also handed a few cheques to some of the farmers owed by the miller.
Mumias, which used to control nearly two thirds of the sugar market in the country has been dying slowly, burdened with debts and low cane supplies and flooding of cheaper sugar imports.
The factory requires over Sh5.2 billion to fully reclaim its lost glory.
President Kenyatta vowed to jail senior officials accused of mismanaging and crippling the country’s main sugar miller.
Mr Kenyatta, in reference to former managers, said: “We will jail people who grounded Mumias. And this will not be politics. They looted from the factory so as to go and play in the Nairobi politics.”
He added: “We will not allow a few people to eat into the sweat from farmers and go scot free.”
Local leaders who included Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, David Were (Matungu), Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo) and Bernard Shinali (Ikolomani), while assuring the President of the region’s votes, welcomed the bailout.
SCARP DEBIT RETURN
Led by Mr Were, the lawmakers called for the scrapping of debit return (DR), a kind of arrangement where farmers pay for loans advanced to them by millers by through deductions from payments on cane delivered, saying it is burdening the farmers.
“Thank you for the cheque you have given our farmers. We still have many challenges facing our farmers such as the DR. Kindly scrap it and our farmers will be happy,” said Mr Were.
And in a quick rejoinder, the Deputy President assured them that the charge imposed on farmers by the factory upon delivery of cane will be scrapped.
Mr Ruto also rekindled claims that the Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga owes the struggling miller Sh300 million and asked him to pay the loan.
“Raila must pay the debt he owes Mumias Sugar Company or he should forget the votes of sugarcane farmers in Mumias,” said Mr Ruto.
The two Jubilee leaders said they had performed well in the last four by opening up roads and noted that they are keen on reviving industries in addition to establishing new ones to create up to 6.5 million job opportunities in the next five years.
Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto said they should be weighed on development and achievement versus what they termed as empty rhetoric from their rivals.