With the Kenyan election not anywhere near the end thanks the upcoming court petitions across the country, the new legislators both in the National Assembly and the Senate have a task to fast-track the pending bills left by the previous Houses.
All these bills are crucial to Kenyan citizens who depend on these houses to safeguard their future.
In the Senate, for example, the outgoing house led by then Senate Speaker, Kenneth Lusaka, has a debt of passing the 2019 Kenya Sugar Bill sponsored by the immediate former Kanduyi MP, Mr. Wafula Wamunyinyi.
The Wamunyinyi Sugar Bill has several recommendations to resuscitate the ailing sugar industry, not only in Kenya, but across the country.
Part of Wamunyinyi’s bill seeks to give the Kenya Sugar Board powers to regulate the sector directly instead of operating through Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority.
MPs from sugar-producing regions have been seeking to reinstate the KSB’s independence which was lost during the repeal of the Crops Act through the Sugar Bill.
The Bill further seeks to give farmers more say in the management of sugar factories by giving them a 51 per cent shareholding in privatised sugar firms with farmers having more than half representation at firms’ board of directors.
The Bill by the Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K) Leader was passed in the National Assembly in September 2021 and forwarded to Senate.
It proposes reforms such as the gazettement of the sugar sector regulations including import rules, amendment of the Agriculturend Food Authority Act and Crops Act in line with the Constitution.
It also proposes strict compliance with the Comes regulations and outlines measures needed to increase the sugar sector’s productivity, and a review of the taxation regime to enhance investor incentives.
Majority of locals across Western and Nyanza regions depend on sugar farming as their main economic activity.
Wamunyinyi proposes that farmers get their payments within 7 days from the day their cane is harvested. It also gives direction to have all sugar workers to be paid on time.
With Mr. Lusaka having clinched his Bungoma gubernatorial seat and Wamunyinyi having lost his Kanduyi parliamentary seat to Ford Kenya’s John Makali, the pending sugar bill risks stagnation if no passionate leader pushes for such sugar reforms as did Wamunyinyi.
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Even a week before his exit as the Kanduyi MP, Mr. Wamunyinyi, together with Defense Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, had already brokered a deal with President Uhuru Kenyatta to boost Nzoi Sugar Company with Sh500 million to pay the farmers and workers.
Though an unfortunate incident and a blow to farmers and workers in the sugar industry, there’s still room for locals to back Wamunyinyi to the Senate and push for the Sugar Bill to be passed and implemented immediately.
This is in line with a possible Senatorial by election in Bungoma County should Senator Wetang’ula relinquish his seat and take up the National Assembly Speaker position promised to him if Kenya Kwanza coalition assumes power.
Wetang’ula, whom Wamunyinyi has faulted many times for not supporting his Sugar Bill in the Senate, has reportedly endorsed his long serving Personal Assistant, Mr. David Wafula Wakoli, to replace him.
If Wamunyinyi is elected as the new Senator for Bungoma, then farmers and workers will have hopes of realising their fruitful efforts in the sugar industry, thus, boosting the economy of the people of Bungoma and Western at large.
Bungoma has been the most affected since the local Nzoia Sugar Factory, which has employed nearly a thousand people on a permanent basis and some 2,057 casuals, has been losing talent to other estabished sectors.
Reviving this sector will mean the tens of thousands of farmers, workers and suppliers will be able to pay school fees, establish thousands of job-creating businesses in the region and changing the economic outlook of the region.
Though Wamunyinyi has not publicly declared his interest in the Senatorial race, any such official announcement should be good song and dance to the locals who understand the pain and anguish they have gone through since the sugar farming became a nightmare.