LAND GRABBING OR NOT?

Residents invade idle Mumias nucleus estate, plant crops

Those tilling the land said they are just protecting it for the company

In Summary
  • Last week, police in Mumias arrested nine people who they found tilling the land but could not charge them because no official complaint was lodged.
  • The company is under receivership by the KCB group over unredeemed debentures.
Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala (centre) engages the receiver manager appointed by KCB to run Mumias Sugar Company P.V. Rao (right) outside the factory on September 24
TROUBLED MILLER: Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala (centre) engages the receiver manager appointed by KCB to run Mumias Sugar Company P.V. Rao (right) outside the factory on September 24
Image: HILTON OTENYO

Confusion abounds in Mumias Sugar Company after some individuals invaded sections of the 12,000 hectares nucleus estate and planted crops.

Last week, police arrested nine people who they found tilling the land but could not charge them because no official complaint was lodged by either the county government of Kakamega or the receiver manager at the company.

“We arrested suspects but had to release them because there was no complainant, so we could not charge them with trespass and other related charges,” Kipkorir said.

Some of those tilling the land said they were protecting it for the company.

Rosalinda Were said she moved into the parcel because her’s was diminishing yet she has six children and 18 grand children.

“We are simply taking care of the land for Mumias and when they want to use it, we shall leave. Right now, we’re operating like Mau Mau fighters. Anytime we see a vehicle, we run away and come back later,” Were said.

Emmanuel Khisa said he moved into the land adjacent to his father’s after he (father) told him to clear it so wild animals do not invade their homes. The invaders have tilled over 200 acres in Matungu constituency.

When contacted by the Star, company legal officer Patrick Mutuli declined to comment, only saying,  “Only the receiver manager can comment,”

Attempts to reach the receiver manager, PVR Rao, bore no fruits as he did not answer calls nor respond to text messages sent to his cell phone.

The company is under receivership by the KCB Group over unredeemed debentures. The receiver is supposed to protect the firm’s assets and revive it to recover the debt.

Kakamega government, which is the custodian of all community land, declined to comment on the matter.

County Trade executive Alfred Matianyi said he could not comment on issues he doesn’t now.

“The receiver manager is the one who should tell us what is happening because he is the one on the ground,” he said.

Residents of Mumias who vacated the land in the early 1970s for establishment of the factory unsuccessfully attempted to retake the land in 2004.

Under the Abahuyi Mumias Nucleus Association, they argued that the 33-year lease the government granted the miller had expired and it had not renewed it.

They then sued, a case that is pending at the Court of Appeal.

The nucleus estate stretches across Matungu, Mumias East and Mumias West subcounties.

The closure of the miller two years ago left nucleus idle and residents have been grazing their animals on sections of the land.

on Tuesday, the Abahuyi chairman Kassim Wangalwa said those who have invaded the land were in order, adding that Mumias Sugar is the real invader.

“The government never renewed the lease after it expired and therefore the land belongs to us. It’s us who should be complaining and not Mumias or even the county government,” he said.

He said the government failed to pay the initial land owners Sh1,430 for every acre  annually as agreed during the lease.

Ex-Sports CS Rashid Echesa said the government, holding the commanding shares at Mumias Sugar Company, should step in and remove the receiver manager for failing to protect the company assets.

“The receiver manager is busy minting millions from the sale of ethanol and he is not telling us what is happening as farmers continue to suffer while the company property remain at risk of vandalism and theft,” he said.

-Edited by SKanyara

A section of the Mumias sugar company nucleus estate land in Matungu constituency
A section of the Mumias sugar company nucleus estate land in Matungu constituency
Image: HILTON OTENYO