Some Civil Society activists have transformed their operations into extortion rackets through which they demand millions of shillings from corporate organizations.
The sugar processing companies like the giant Mumias Sugar Company (MSC) have not been left out either with farmers being exploited to play a central role to execute their schemes without knowing the ultimate goal of the operatives.
It has since emerged that Senator Okiya Omtatah who once sued Mumias Sugar, alledgedly tried extorting Kshs6.5million from the Company to allegedly ‘demobilise’ protesting sugarcane farmers.
Omutatah started his operations in 2011 when a row erupted between sugarcane farmers in Busia county and Mumias Sugar Company over attempts by the latter to sell a more than 800 acre piece of land at Nasewa in Matayos Constituency which was initially earmarked for the construction of a sugar factory over an alleged Kshs. 100 million debt to the defunct Busia Sugar Company.
The land was bought by the government in the late 1990s to facilitate the construction of the proposed factory that never materialised but Mumias Sugar under the then CEO Dr Evans Kidero which took over Busia Sugar Company as the receiver manager started planting sugarcane and pocketing the proceeds from the farm before attempting to sell it.
Immediately the Omtatah rushed to the scene disguised to mobilize farmers into massive demonstrations to protest against and block the alleged attempts to dispose of the land which is supposed to belong to the government.
According to an email received from a senior former MSC manager, the leading activist in this matter wrote to the company demanding a total of Kshs6,407,500 payment to demobilize farmers from going ahead with the planned protest demonstrations that were supposed to block any sugarcane being transported from Busia County to Mumias.
The email reads, ‘Hiring 6 pickups mounted with sound systems, and crew, to crisscross Busia Sugarcane Zone for 2 days (at 50,000/= each per day), mobilising the public for the pre-strike rally to discuss the Mumias Sugar Company’s response to our letter and postpone the strike totaling up to Kshs. 600, 000.”
“Holding 30 solidarity and sensitization meetings for with facilitation for the farmers and their leaders to suspend the strike and attend the rally targeting at least 6,000 individuals @ 500/= per person coming to a total of Kshs3, 000, 000,” says the email.
It goes on to detail that hiring of public address systems for two days, media campaign on national print and electronic media and local vernacular FM radio stations would cost more than Kshs. 1.5 million, NEMA license, music copy right license, public rally with five facilitators each paid Kshs. 150, 000 would all come to a total of Kshs. 6.5 million.
The letter reads in part: “Following your letter requesting us to postpone our planned mass action against Mumias Sugar Company’s activities in Busia Sugarcane Zone, to give you time to consult the Board and revert to us, kindly note that we need to ‘demobilise’ the farmers.”
It goes on: “To do so, we need to visit the farmers and their leaders and also to hold a public rally where a senior government official can address the farmers and other stakeholders, and convince them to step back, and give you time to deliberate the issue”.
“We recommend that the PC Western Province be asked to come and address the rally at the Nasewa Farm on the eve of the planned mass action, being Thursday, September 1, 2011,” it says in conclusion before detailing the mentioned budget estimates.
Ironically the same activist first called for a massive demonstration against Mumias sugar by farmers from the region only for him again to go round and ask for Ksh6.5million from the same company in the name of demobilising his own protests.
Omutatah filed a case at the Bungoma High Court challenging the attempted sale of the land in which he enjoined the former attorney general Amos Wako and former Nambale Member of Parliament, Chris Okemo and 30 others as petitioners. Nearly ten of the thirty withdrew from the suit questioning the motives of the principal movers of the suit.
Omtatah in the suit filed by Muma and Kanjama advocates named the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Lands, the Commissioner of Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Kenya Sugar Board, Mumias Sugar Company, Busia Sugar Company, Kaplony Ltd, Mumias CEO, Evans Kidero, Wetangtula, Adan & Makokha advocates as respondents.
This whole drama took on a political twist with reports emerging that some politicians who were aspiring to vie for the governorship slot in Nairobi County had joined the bandwagon to finance some of the activities in the unfolding drama.