, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 12 – President Uhuru Kenyatta has slammed Opposition leader Raila Odinga over his criticism on the sugar import deal he entered with his Ugandan counterpart President Yoweri Museveni.
Kenyatta insisted the country was better off supporting its neighbours than importing from countries outside the continent.
“I say this to my brother… if you want to accuse me of something, do it; you are free. When you say that I went to talk about bringing cheap sugar into Kenya, where do you want us to get our shortfall from, I would rather get from Uganda than Brazil. And who says it is cheap? Let us work to strengthen our own in this region,” said President Kenyatta.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the Eastern Africa Regional Pan African Movement at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) President Kenyatta also called on the Opposition to work with the government to strengthen farmers so that they can be competitive.
President Kenyatta pointed out that Uganda imported $700 million worth of products from Kenya and only exported $150 million reiterating the need to support farmers.
“In our small little markets who goes where? we must look big and think big for the future of Kenya,” he added.
He noted the challenges faced by the country saying instead of the ongoing blame game, the leaders should work together for the common good of Kenya.
He said the Opposition should offer alternative options and solutions instead of merely criticising the government.
“When it comes to the interest of our nation, our region and our continent we must speak in one voice for the betterment of our people and for the future of our children,” he said.
We may differ in terms of policy but the agenda must be one. We must listen to each other and give room to diverse opinion because it is through this that we can get better. The diverse opinion must however be constructive,” he reiterated.
Odinga who was present as President Kenyatta spoke however defended his position saying he was simply protecting Kenyan sugarcane farmers who he insists will lose out on the deal.
“I am not against Kenya trading with Uganda… all that I have said is that they are so many other Ugandan products that we can buy as the Kenyan people. All that I talked about is protecting the Kenyan sugarcane farmer, our industry is ailing,” he said.
He cited the recent visit by President Kenyatta to Mumias where he offered a Sh1 billion bailout for the sugar company which is on its knees saying this will be an exercise in futility if the ‘cheap’ Ugandan sugar infiltrates the Kenyan market.
“How sure are we the sugar that will be imported will not be from Uganda but Brazil?” asked Odinga.
On Tuesday, Odinga demanded that President Kenyatta publicizes details of the deal saying certain known sugar importers were seeking to make kill from the deal.
The Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation Workers has also expressed concern over the deal arguing it could be abused by unscrupulous traders who would import cheap sugar from outside the continent and bring it into the country through Uganda, making the higher priced sugar manufactured in Kenya uncompetitive.