As we welcome the president of the republic of Kenya to Western Kenya in a few weeks time, we need to utilise the moment to perfectly capture our most pronounced needs as a people because as matters stand, “we trust national government provided solutions so much than people driven initiatives”. But before we adequately prepare for the most important visitor the largely cane farming region can expect in much anticipation, lets take a short journey down the history lane to better understand the genesis of our problems and what nature of solutions can work.
Mumias Sugar Company.
They wise men of this cane farming fraternity say “omukhula kulondanga ahakwaburakho” (flood water follows paths crafted by previous floods.) which is very true. In the early 70s, the founding father of the nation the late Mzee Njomo Kenyatta in his wisdom and love for the western Kenya region gave us Mumias Sugar Company, which he personally commissioned in 1972-73. Through his government, he meant to improve the economic strength of the region by expanding cane farming. The late president demonstrated this by stopping the British investor (Booker Tate) from evicting locals to give way for the expansion of the nucleus estate, and ordered that seed cane be given to farmers to grown on their farms outside the nucleus estates (hence the birth of out-grower farmers) who would then sell to the miller.
So far, much has happened to bring the miller to its current state and poverty to cane farmers. Successive governments have done their part to try and improve the situation but always been failed by corrupt activities by the miller’s management, interference from political leaders and wayward opinion shapers, lack of modern agricultural practices, and natural forces including dry spells. When President Uhuru Kenyatta visits Mumias, we expect him to “move like a flood”, right in the path cut out by his predecessor and father who had the needs of the region at heart.
County government of Kakamega efforts at reviving cane farming.
We cant exhaustively handle sugar cane farming woes without the involvement of the Kakamega County government and other county government in the region. In the case of Mumias sugar which is 18-20% National government owned, the county government of Kakamega needs to be given a stake to earn a voice. Our suggestions are that the national government offloads its shareholding to the county government of Kakamega, and the implementation of other recommendations as captured in the governor Ambetsa Oparanya and former CS Mwangi Kiunjuri co-chaired task-force report ably done by Kakamega county CEC for trade industrialization and tourism Mr. Kassim Were. These recommendations if implemented will bring a complete turnaround of fortunes and general benefits to cane farming.
Enhancement of cross border trade benefits with Uganda.
Since creation, the western Kenya region has and will always remain strategically placed as a cultural and social integration beneficiary with our East African neighbor Uganda. This has to be taken a notch higher by National government facilitating economic activities with benefits for the region which must be enjoyed by locals other than stopping at cross border marriages and cultural exchanges with very little or no economic value.
Border towns such as Busia, Malaba, and others close to borders like Bungoma and Mumias should experience monumental growth and investment out of increased cross border trade. Instead of placing a regional passport processing center in far flung Kisumu whose port doesn’t experience much economic activity, or Eldoret which is way in the rift valley, the regions passport center should be placed in Bungoma or Kakamega towns.
“Inclussivity” as presented for capture in the BBI report.
Its much easier to push an agenda one believes in and practices religiously because its tested and proven beyond reasonable doubt. Previous governments have always had more than three Ministers/CS’s from western region also famously referred to as “The Mulembe Nation”. Looking at the current push for exclusivity as an agenda casts doubts to the presidents goodwill. Currently, the mulembe nation has only one cabinet secretary our of 24. Other regions have also been marginalized too, but since we expect the president to visit, our hearts are bleeding from serious exclusion from his government, and expect an explanation as to why. The president needs to explain to us if we truly are part of his Jubilee government or just another extension he can do without.
Finally, as we near another election cycle, its solely upon our people to push our leaders to unite our region and present a front that can be admired by the entire Nation in pushing our political agenda and representation. We have always enjoyed our numerical strength but failed to convert that to political relevance. Our cultural diversity as experienced in our sub clans shouldn’t be used further to determine our political inclinations and boundaries.