Written by Frankline Bwire
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A tractor that was set ablaze at Okatikok in Teso South district. The tractor was transporting cane to Mumias Sugar Company. [PHOTO | Frankline Bwire \ West Fm]
Teso, Busia County: Angry youth and cane farmers from Okatekok village in Teso South District burnt down a tractor in protest to the decision by the Kakamega High Court to stop operations of West Kenya Sugar Company in Busia Sugar zone.
Witnesses said the incident occurred at around 10 am, when the tractor was from the sugarcane farm in the area transporting cane to Mumias Sugar Company (MSC).
“The irate group of individuals armed with various crude weapons set ablaze the tractor using petrol, as the driver tried to negotiate a corner towards the main tarmac road, prompting him to jump for his safety, while it was still moving with cane,” said a local resident.
The manager of the affected tractor from Shajanand Holdings limited Dancan Mathenge said: “We are pulling out of operations at the moment, to avoid losing more tractors. These violent activities seem to be on the increase here in Teso area.”
Police officers from Busia and Teso at the scene where a tractor was set ablaze.
The incident occurred a day after residents in support of West Kenya Sugar Company, stalled business at Tangakona, along the Busia-Mayoni road resulting into a heavy traffic jam.
The residents are alleged to have stoned vehicles and harassed the owners, with some demanding for money before they could allow the vehicles to pass.
A section of cane farmers who spoke to West FM at Tangakona, expressed fear that with the temporary court order restraining West Kenya Sugar Company from transporting and harvesting cane from the area, their cane would be destroyed resulting them into serious losses.
The area civic leader Romanus Orengo called on local residents to demand for their rights in a peaceful manner without involving themselves in acts of violence.
“We should not accept to be incited by individuals who have their own vested interests with the millers,” said Orengo, adding that though the court order to stop the operations of West Kenya in Busia zone will deny local residents employment, they should be calm as the issue is being looked into.
He urged the two rival sugar firms to come to the ground and meet with stakeholders and cane farmers in the area, in a bid to resolve the issue that has left youth and cane farmers divided over the cane poaching crisis.
Orengo added that: “If Mumias Sugar Company has issues with the farmers over debts, they should face them individually. Most cane farmers in the area say that they finished their contracts with Mumias and hence have the right to sell their cane to any miller of their interest without being harassed,”
However, Teso OCPD Elphasis Korir and Busia deputy OCPD Francis Nguli urged area residents to desist from burning tractors and Lorries transporting cane, but instead use the legal procedure of demanding for their rights.
“Let us avoid acts that are in violation of the law. We should not stone vehicles and harass motorists,” said Nguli, when they were patrolling the West Kenya weighbridge at Tangakona, where it is alleged that some residents had motives of burning the weighbridge.
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