Eviction of close to 5,000 families from their ancestral land in Hoima district in Uganda by Hoima Sugar Ltd has returned to haunt Sarrai Group, the company that was recently awarded the tender to revive Kenya’s Mumias Sugar Company. A commission of inquiry was established to investigate the evictions and victims were invited to give their views on the incident.
During the hearings of the Commission, chaired by Lady Justice Catherine Bamugeremereire, the ownership of Hoima Sugar Limited, which is associated with Sarrai Group, admitted that they paid each evictee Ush30,000 equivalent of Ksh230 for every acre.
“We have pictures of the effects of police intervention. Brutality was meted on people,” said Justice Bamugeremereire during the inquiry proceedings and Sarrai Group, for its part, said it was ready for negotiations with the evicted persons (see video above).
However, the response by the manager in-charge of land acquisition at Hoima Sugar Limited, Ramado Siraj Kasaran, did not go down well with the Commission. “There is a group in IDP so you cannot say you only want to negotiate with little ones who have one acre of land. That is not right. You will have to be open minded,” Justice Bamugeremereire told the representative of Sarrai Group.
Following the revelations in Uganda, Sarrai Group’s operations in Mumias are being taken with a pinch of salt. ”We are judging Sarrai based on these revelations and we are getting concerned,” Mr John Shiundu, a resident of Mayoni, a stone’s throw from Mumias Sugar factory, said recently.
Sarrai was ordered by Kenyan courts to halt all activities in Mumias until the cases that have been filed are heard and determined. Mixed reactions have also emerged with some locals questioning how Sarrai, the lowest bidder, was awarded the tender to run Mumias for 20 years.
Sarrai Group, which is associated with Kenyan businessman Sarbi Singh Rai, placed the third-highest bid of Ksh11.5 billion in the lease battle that attracted businessman Julius Mwale, who placed the highest bid of Ksh27.6 billion.
Sarbi’s siblings, through West Kenya Sugar Company Ltd, and under his brother Jaswant Rai, offered Ksh3.5 billion with steel tycoon Narendra Raval placing a bid of Ksh8.4 billion in a contest that attracted eight bidders.
It has also emerged that politicians from Kakamega are quietly questioning the credibility of the entire process that was spearheaded by KCB Group, the Mumias Receiver Manager. Although leaders are not happy, they fear the backlash of being seen to be against the revival of Mumias Sugar Company.