By Collins Matubwi and Wilson Abiri
Political leaders from Western Kenya led by Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi and his Ford Kenya counterpart have faulted President Uhuru Kenyatta over marginalization of the region after nothing was allocated for the ailing sugar industry.
The sugar industry is the region’s economic backbone bringing together Vihiga, Bungoma, Kakamega, Trans Nzoia and Busia counties respectively.
The 50 political leaders from the region met at Musalia Mudavadi Centre in Nairobi on Saturday. They include Bishop Titus Khamala (Lurambi MP), Dan Wanyama (Webuye West), Benjamin Washiali (Mumias East), Ayub Savula (Lugari), Mwambu Mabonga (Bumula) and Ferdinand Wanyonyi (Kwanza) among other leaders.
“We want to raise the red flag on the marginalization in the budget, for the Western Kenya economy – and indeed the entire Lake Basin Regional economy,” read part of the presser.
Mudavadi while reading the joint statement, he blasted Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani for not allocating anything towards the revival of the ailing sugar millers like Mumias Sugar Company that is currently under receivership as well as Nzoia Sugar Company.
“We note with profound concern that the sugar industry, that has been the mainstay of our economy in Western Kenya, remains marginalized. Not a single word of hope has been given to the sugar farmer and to all those whose lives and livelihoods have been defined around the sugar industry – from Awendo to Nzoia and from Mumias to Ramisi,” said Mudavadi.
He added: “We are left wondering whether this is a factor of the State giving up on the industry, or is it erroneous human omission, or deliberate marginalization? Whatever the case, this must be corrected immediately. We call upon Parliament to attend to this concern,”
Mudavadi said that the government has marginalized some Kenyan communities that seem not to have support the jubilee administration development agenda, saying Western Kenya has gotten a raw deal for the last eight years Uhuru has been President.
He said that most projects have been centralized within the Nairobi Metropolitan area instead of having regional balance.
“We take note, for example, that while the Health Sector in the budget has taken a formidable allocation of funds, the mainstay in this budget is focused on the Nairobi Metropolitan Area. While we appreciate the fact that this is the epicenter of the new coronavirus menace, we also wish to state that the Nairobi Metropolitan Area is not Kenya. Let all Kenyans benefit from equitable budgetary allocations in all sectors,” said Mudavadi.
Mr. Wetang’ula on his part said the plight of farmers and pastoralists have nothing to smile about given that they are facing challenges with farm inputs and markets for their produce.
“It is big irony that the country sometimes goes through waves of staple food shortages, while farmers are lumbered with staples that they cannot sell, due to terribly low production prices, set by the state. This matter requires urgent addressing,” said Wetang’ula.
Wetang’ula said despite Uganda being the country’s biggest trading partner in the region, communities living adjacent to the Kenya – Uganda border are among those who benefit least from the cross border trade between the two countries.
“This is true all the way from the Nyanza Lake Basin Region, all the way to the greater Mount Elgon Region. This anomaly is a factor of the underdeveloped economy in the Lake Basin, the North Rift and the Mount Elgon Regions,’ said Wetang’ula.
He added: “A deliberate blueprint to revamp the regional economy, all the way from the Central Rift Valley, the North and South Rift, the Lake Basin and Western Kenya, is of paramount urgency. In the coming days, we are going to push hard for this, both at the level of the National Government and Devolved Government,”
Wetang’ula also blamed the government of the congestion of truck drivers along the Busia and Malaba border, saying they are now spreading Covid19 at the watch of the government.
“The possibility of a terrible outbreak of the covid-19 disease in Western Kenya is very real. We call upon the Kenya Government to move swiftly to decongest the affected border points. This must be a matter of priority. We will closely monitor the developments and will not hesitate to address them again, should the situation persist,” said Wetang’ula.
Wetang’ula said they were concerned that the rehabilitation of the metre gauge railway from Nairobi to the Uganda border has remained a singsong, saying if it was functional; it would ease some of the pressure on road transport of heavy goods.
He said it would also decongest the roads and make them less accident-prone. “We call for expedited action here. Indeed, the region must also benefit from the extended Standard Gauge Railway. National resources must serve the entire nation,”