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Economy

Protest paralyses transport on busy Busia-Mumias highway

Farmers look on as sugarcane  tractors go through Magut Weighbridge in West Kenya Sugar Company, Kakamega District. PHOTO | FILE
Farmers look on as sugarcane tractors go through Magut Weighbridge in West Kenya Sugar Company, Kakamega District. PHOTO | FILE 

A demonstration against the closure of West Kenya Sugar Company factory paralysed transport along the Busia-Mumias highway for seven hours Thursday.

Protesters barricaded the highway using logs and stones while others burnt tyres, forcing motorist to seek alternative routes to their destinations.

The demonstrators demanded that the multibillion shilling plant, which is operational but still under construction, be opened saying hundreds of youths had lost jobs after a court order stopped work.

“The factory was slowly changing the economy of Busia,” said Dancan Iluku, a demonstrator, adding that he depends on income from the plant to feed his family.

One youth was seriously injured when the company’s loader ran over him. He was rushed to Busia County Referral Hospital. It took the intervention of Busia county governor Sospeter Ojaamong to calm the rowdy crowd.

Mr Ojaamong promised to intervene and ensure that the factory resumes operations as soon as possible.

“Individuals should stop using court orders to frustrate sugar investors,” he said. The Busia High Court issued an order stopping operations at the site following a petition filed by Shaban Wandera on grounds that the plant was operating without a licence from the Sugar Directorate.

His advocate Oye Ashioya also claimed that construction of the plant poses a health hazard to locals due to water disposal and pollution.

He claimed that the project was being put up on wetland, a source of water for local communities.

“The factory will interfere with the natural state of River Sio because they don’t have an effluent discharge plan nor certificate from the National Environment Management Authority (Nema),” said Mr Ashioya.

In his ruling, Justice Kaniaru said: “A grant for leave has been issued in favour of the exparte applicant to operate as a stay of all and or any activities and or operations at the construction site of West Kenya Sugar Company Limited at Olepito and the O.C.S Nambale police station do assist in effecting this order.”

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