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Why sugar belt MPs snubbed Kenyatta

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Uhuru-Mumias sugarTen MPs from Western yesterday refused to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi, and instead trooped to a meeting with Cord leader Raila Odinga elsewhere in the capital.

At a press conference in Parliament, Luhya MPs claimed that they had been invited to State House via SMS to discuss the controversial Kenya-Uganda sugar deal that would see Nairobi import surplus sugar from Kampala in exchange for dairy products.

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MPs Bunyasi (Nambale), Wamalwa (Kiminini), Namwamba (Budalang’i), Washiali (Mumias East), Malulu Injendi (Malava), Silverse Anami (Shinyalu), David Were (Matungu), Bonface Otsiula (Bumula), Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo), and Reginalda Wanyonyi (Bungoma county woman rep) were the MPs who snubbed President Kenyatta.

The President signed the bilateral deal during his three-day visit to Kampala, but the agreement has touched off a political storm, with Raila and leaders from the Sugar Belt region claiming that it will kill the struggling local sugar industry.

“Following our deliberations, the caucus has resolved to politely decline the invitation,” the MPs said in a statement read by Nambale MP Sakwa Bunyasi.

Yesterday Raila, after meeting MPs and Senators from the sugar-growing regions of Kwale, Narok, Nyanza and Western Kenya, insisted that the President had signed a bad deal.

“Instead of protecting families and jobs in these counties, this agreement will, on the contrary, lead to the total destruction of the Kenya sugar industry.

“With his signature, the President has turned the sugar industry into a lottery for Kenya farmers. It opens doors for crooked business and government officials who have the money and the connections to import sugar from anywhere, give it a Uganda label, and dump it here,” said the ODM leader in a statement read at a press conference.

Raila said Uganda has no surplus sugar it can sell to Kenya. The figures being floated, he said, are not true.

“As at December 2014, Uganda’s total sugar consumption projection stood at 420,966 metric tonnes. The total production capacity, on the other hand, was projected to be 438,400 metric tonnes,” he said.

Bunyasi said in the absence of full disclosure of the details of the agreement, any engagement with the government should involve MPs from other Sugar Belt regions.

“It is the position of the caucus that the sugar question goes beyond Western Kenya, stretching to the Nyanza and Coast regions.

“Once we get the full details and acquaint ourselves with the agreement, other than the piecemeal information we are getting, we shall meet the President,” Bunyasi said.

The MPs warned that the matter would further sink the economy of Western Kenya that largely relies on sugarcane farming, if it is not addressed urgently.

“We want to state categorically that this caucus has never declared support for either Jubilee or Cord. Our relationship with either has been about addressing the economic interests of the Western region,” said ODM secretary general Ababu Namwamba.

The MPs asked the government to set aside resources to enhance the crushing capacity of local sugar factories, instead of importing sugar.

“We have information that there is a huge backlog of sugar in the stores and factories are unable to buy sugarcane from farmers. Let us first exhaust what we have,” the Budalang’i MP concluded.

He named the Butali, Nzoia, Western Kenya Sugar and Sony Sugar companies as among firms with lots of sugar in the stores.

“We are saying there is a cartel taking advantage now that sugar is coming from Uganda to Kenya to kill our economy,” said Minority deputy whip Chris Wamalwa.

The MPs said they had on Wednesday received an invitation from State House, through Majority deputy whip Benjamin Washiali, to meet the President yesterday morning but were unaware of the agenda.

– the-star.co.ke

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