Uganda’s Sarrai Group recently secured a long-term lease for Mumias Sugar assets.
However, a Kenyan High Court and the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB) slammed breaks on Sarrai’s operations.
The group has been barred by the High Court from proceeding with plans to revive Mumias Sugar Company until case filed by one of the companies that had placed the bid, Tumaz and Tumaz Enterprise is heard and determined.
Even after being restrained from continuing with activities in Mumias, Sarrai has disregarded the court orders and opted to carry on with the plans to revive Mumias.
This has prompted Tumaz and Tumaz Enterprise file a contempt of court against Sarrai Group and the Mumias Sugar receiver-manager PVR Rao, for disobeying the high court orders.
Sarrai Group appears to be in a hurry to revive Mumias Sugar and this should be good news for farmers and the Country.But is it?
News from Uganda, paint a different picture.
The Group has been in both Ugandan local media and sometimes international media outlets all for wrong reasons.
The preferred mode of operation is to use excess force and confrontational tactics to frustrate people. They are doing the same in Kenya by disobeying court orders.
In Uganda, Sarrai is battling myriad of court cases. The lawsuits range from violent eviction of helpless families from their lands at gun point and destruction of the environment to develop sugarcane.
The curse of court cases has followed Sarrai into Kenya. The game has just started.
Two petitions filed by Tumaz and Tumaz Enterprise against Sarrai Group and Rao still pending at the High Court.
In August 2021, residents of Rwekobe and Rwambeho in Kabwoya sub county, Kikuube district in Uganda accused Hoima sugar company that is associated with Sarrai for grabbing 22 square miles of land.
Similar inhumane displacement of people happened in May 2021 at Kigyayo in Kiziranfumbi by the same company in neighbouring Uganda.
In April 2021, Uganda’s minister for land Bett Kamya was forced to intervene following a public outcry and stopped the eviction of people from 12,737 acres by Kiryandogo sugar factory which is also associated with Sarrai Group.
The case is still in court. Consequently, Sarrai Group is fighting a court case where he has been accused by a civil society group for raiding Bugoma forest and destroying the trees to create space for development of sugarcane for Hoima Sugar factory.
The Environmental activists in Uganda have vowed to fight to the end with the view of saving Bugoma forest from destruction.
Hoima Sugar Limited in 2013 evicted more than 5,000 people from 1,300 acres in Kijayo, Buhaguzi county in Hoima district to pave the way for the sugar plantation.
The evicted persons to date, since they were not compensated, live in displaced people’s camps.
Memories of what befell Sarah Apio and her family in 2017 are still fresh on her mind.
Tears flow freely from her eyes whenever she remembers how people were violently evicted from their ancestral land to pave way for sugarcane cultivation by Kiryandogo Sugar Company Limited owned by Sarrai Group.
According to Apio, it was on January 1st, 2017, when they were asked to leave their land without prior notice from Kiryandogo Sugar Company.
The locals pleaded with management of Sarrai Group not to evict them from a place they had called home for many years.
However, their pleas landed in deaf ears as Kiryandogo sugar remained hellbent that locals must leave the land for them to cultivate sugarcane to develop sugarcane for their factory.
Apio, with her husband and their nine children, refused to leave because no alternative land had been provided to them.
Kiryandogo Sugar Company with impunity decided to plant sugarcane all over and left Apio with just a space where her houses were.
She currently stays in the middle of a sugarcane plantation. Her daughters have seen it all from Kiryandogo Sugar Company security guards who have tried to assault them sexually whenever they go to fetch water from the streams.
Apio has no kind words for Sarrai Group that has been awarded a tender to revive Mumias Sugar Company.
“One should not wish those people to come near you. They will cause a lot of injustice to people like they did to us,” said Apio.
“The management of Sarrai Group does not care about the people but themselves. See where I am living and the challenges, I face because of what Sarrai Group did to me,” said Apio.
She said the life of her family was turned upside down just because someone wanted to develop sugarcane.
“The appetite for land to develop sugarcane and the lives of innocent people. Which one matters? Posed Apio.
“I was left with nothing but only where my houses are. I have nowhere to plant food crops and feed my family. One day, God will punish them for the injustice they meted on me,” said Apio.
Apio’s predicament is shared by an octogenarian Florence Nassaka who was also evicted from Canaan village, a land she had called home for over 40 years.
Nassaka just like Apio has no kind words for Sarrai Group. “Those people can laugh while you are crying, I saw it when they evicted us from our lands,” said Nassaka.
A Good Samaritan offered her a room in one of the local markets where she stays currently.
Many Kenyans and particularly sugarcane farmers from cane growing regions have too little information about Sarrai Group and some locals are worried about Sarrai Group.
Many are wondering whether Sarrai Group is their saviour or will turn out to be a monster that devours them.
There is little information on what will happen to small farmers who are still owed money.
Sarrai long term lease and there is concern that with their lack of experience in running sustainable operations, this is another half-hearted attempt to revive Mumias ahead of the elections.