Sugar wars back in court

July 22, 2008
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, NAIROBI July 22 – A leadership tussle is now emerging in the sugar industry after a former Member of Parliament  moved to court to bar the gazettement of two representatives from the Mumias and Busia Electoral Zone elected to the sugar governing body, Kenya Sugar Board (KSB).

Professor Christine Mango is seeking orders to bar Agriculture Minister William Ruto, from gazetting newly elected officials to KSB for the productive western sugar zone.

Mango claimed that she vied and won previous elections held on May 25, but Ruto ordered fresh elections in a notice published in a local daily on July 8.

She argued that her election has neither been challenged nor nullified and no explanation about the move to call another election has been offered.

The former MP claimed the decision to call another election was \’irrational, unprocedural, unreasonable and unacceptable in the eye of the public\’.

She wants the Court to prohibit the Agriculture Minister from gazetting the new members pending the hearing and determination of her suit.

"The respondents (Ruto and others) have acted irresponsibly, arbitrarily, capriciously and their conduct is aimed at frustrating the applicant (Mango) of exercising her right to represent the members of the Mumias and Busia Electoral Zone sugar growers," a section her suit papers read.

The former MP had been elected together with Engineer Mohammed Mukhwana to the board but their election was allegedly nullified without any explanation.

She has named the Agriculture Minister and the Returning officer, Director Crops and Land Development as respondents in the case who she accused for colluding to nullify her election.

Her case comes against the background of renewed efforts by Agriculture Minister to streamline the troubled sugar industry, which has lately been grappling under massive irregularities including cartels.

Ruto has repeatedly blamed availability of cheap sugar imports on cartels who he argues are guarded by high profile government officials.

Early in the month, Prime Minister Raila Odinga similarly slammed a ban on importation of sugar to protect the local industry from what he termed as unfair competition and consequently directed the KSB and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to observe the import embargo to save local farmers and industries from further exploitation.

He said some unscrupulous merchants were repackaging sugar in cement and fertilizer bags to evade import duties since agricultural inputs and production materials attracted lesser charges.

Ruto who had earlier in the year banned exportation of sugar to contain price fluctuation due to shift in supply and demand called on the need to "restore sanity in the sugar sector".

The Agriculture Minister said the surplus sugar in the country could neither be checked nor accounted for due to the dishonesty nature of some importers.

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