Kenya: uproar over Ruto’s apparent death threats against sugar cartels

by MMC
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Amnesty International, Haki Afrika and the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) raised concerns following remarks by Kenyan President William Ruto on how he intends to deal with what he has described as sugar cartels.

Ruto, who toured the western region, Kenya’s sugar belt, declared war on the cartels. He said they were sabotaging the government’s plan to revive and reform the ailing industry. His statements were considered to amount to death threats.

Tough-speaking Ruto is demanding that private investors currently engaged in a bitter dispute over ownership of Kenya’s largest flour mill, Mumias Sugar Company, exit the company. “If they make me angry, there are three things: they either leave Kenya, or they end up in prison, or they go to heaven. » Ruto said.

The two investors involved in the management dispute are billionaires Jaswant Rai, chairman of the West Kenya Sugar Company, and his brother Sarbjit Singh Rai.

Eric Theuri, president of the Law Society of Kenya, described Ruto’s comments as a death sentence. threat against investors in the sugar industry.

He added that the president’s comments could undermine the independence of the judiciary. “We demand that the president step down and apologize for making such comments,” Theuri said.

“Non-presidential” speech

Opposition coalition Azimio la Umoja also condemned Ruto’s statements, saying it is disturbing that a head of state would threaten investors with arrest, deportation or harm.

Senate Minority Leader Stewart Madzayo described Ruto’s remarks as politically motivated as they were aimed at investors who did not support his candidacy in the 2022 presidential election.

“Ruto’s remarks are unfortunate, unpresidential and a threat to national security. » Madzayo saidcalling on the president to apologize to Kenyans and investors.

The condemnation of Ruto’s comments came days after Rai was kidnapped by gunmen at a road junction in the capital Nairobi last Friday. He was released two days later.

Police denied any involvement in the businessman’s kidnapping, saying they were investigating the incident.

Sugar woes in Kenya

According to a report published in 2020 According to the Kenya Manufacturers Association, sugar is smuggled into the country across porous borders, leading to quality compromises, loss of revenue and market distortion.

The report further blames current and past governments for inadequate regulations that exploit farmers and harm production. High production costs, debt, acute shortage of sugarcane and falling yields were other challenges of the sugar sector highlighted in the report.

After taking power in September 2022, Ruto promised to revive the industry by investing in new and modern crushers, writing off all debts of sugar factories amounting to KSh117 billion (nearly $804 million) and ensuring that no public factories are privatized.

According to statistics from The Minister of AgricultureThe sugar industry supports at least 17% of Kenya’s population, based in 15 counties in the Nyanza, Rift Valley, Western and Coast regions.

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