Monthly Archives: August 2011

Mass action planned to kick Mumias out of Nasewa farm in Busia


BUSIA

Wednesday, August 31, 2011  By Chris Mahandara.

Busia Sugarcane Zone farmers have organized massive demonstrations on Friday this week to force Mumias Sugar Company to hand over the 843 acre Nasewa farm in Busia back to the government. The demonstrations organized by Kenyans For Justice and Development (KEJUDE) are set to paralyze Mumias sugar company operations in the area. In a letter to Mumias Sugar Company Managing Director Dr. Evans Kidero, KEJUDE Executive Director Okiya Omtatah said farmers shall boycott sugarcane harvesting and stop participating in any sugarcane development activities until the land is given back to the government. The farmers, he said will not allow vehicles belonging to the company into the area adding that operations at the Company’s Kisoko buying center shall be paralysed until the demand is met. He added that the Busia and Malaba border crossing points shall also be blocked to stop vehicular traffic into Uganda. Mr. Omtatah said similar demonstrations shall be held in Nairobi from Uhuru Park to Mumias Sugar Company offices in Upper Hill. The company, he said was clinging on the land to recover an alleged debt owed by Busia Out growers Company (BOCO). “We want an independent audit to ascertain the alleged debt so that we can deduct from any confirmed debt the money Mumias has made from growing and harvesting sugarcane on the farm for the last five years,” read the letter in part. The demonstrations, he said will go on to stop the company from blocking efforts by the government through the Kenya Sugar Board and ministry of agriculture which have been trying to pay off any independently confirmed debts BOCO owes Mumias Sugar Company. The vast Busia Sugar which covers Amagoro, Nambale, Butula, Ugenya, Samia and Budalangi constituencies is served by Mumias Sugar Company. The farmers want the government to shop for a potential investor to set up a sugar factory in the area since a lot of sugar is wasted along the way while being transported to the factory. In an interview with Kakamega Times, BOCO Director Mr. Steven Omuse said so far five investors have expressed interest in setting up a factory in the area. West Kenya Sugar Factory has already written to the Kenya Sugar Board expressing interest in relocating its mill from Kakamega North to Busia on the said piece of land.

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Lack of jurisprudence blamed for slow prosecution of hate speech suspects


KAKAMEGA Tuesday, August 30, 2011

By Chris Mahandara.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission has blamed the slow pace of prosecuting hate speech suspects to lack of jurisprudence on the matter. Commission Chairman Dr. Mzalendo Kibunja said hate speech was still a new phenomenon in the country thus posing a challenge to lawyers and advocates who are dealing with it for the first time. He said the commission was treading carefully on the matter since the same constitution that prohibits hate speech also provides for freedom of expression. “There is a thin line between the two that is why as a commission we are not policing Kenyans to hear what they are discussing and arrest them,” he said. However Dr. Kibunja cautioned politicians against using hate speech to muscle political power saying the commission shall not hesitate to recommend prosecution against such individuals to ensure that the campaign and electioneering period next year is peaceful. Speaking during a regional diversity conversations on ethnicity and race workshop held in Kakamega town yesterday, Kibunja said the commission has organized 10 such public workshops across the country to enable Kenyans speak freely on issues that make them hate one another so that they can be addressed to build a united cohesive nation. “We want Kenyans to speak openly on why one tribe hates the other so that we can talk and iron out these issues once and for all,” he said. Kibunja further appealed to Kenyans to take advantage of the diversity in culture and tradition so as to build a strong country. He said time has come for Kenyans to get out of tribal cocoons and look at themselves as one to create an enabling environment for the nation to prosper. On devolution, Kibunja said politicians must tread carefully and give equal chance to minority tribes and the majority tribes in every county so as to foster peaceful coexistence. He said while awarding tenders for various projects at county level, all these factors must be considered to ensure that peace prevails. This, he said was necessary since the majority tribes in every county are likely to take advantage of the minority tribes hence bringing tension. Former Trade Minister Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi urged the commission to study the historical perspective of conflicts and come up with long lasting solutions to create a peaceful nation. He said the issue dates back to ancestral days and that historical background can be helpful to address the injustice committed.

Gold miners seek state help


KAKAMEGA Saturday, August 27, 2011

By Chris Mahandara.

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work, Collin Powel an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army once said. This citation aptly captures the quest by gold miners at Rosterman village and Ikolomani in Kakamega County. They work 24 hours in search for the elusive gold with hopes that one day they will strike the money making gem and make millions. Hardened by biting poverty and unemployment, tthese groups of young men go down the tunnels, 50ft deep and dig over 300 meters across in search for gold every day and night without any protective gear. Gold mining in Western Kenya dates back to 1892 when deposits of the precious metal were discovered at Lolgorian, along the Nyanza-Rift Valley border. As more gold deposits were discovered in the region, foreign companies started making inroads and are believed to have minted billions of shillings from the mines. However, actual gold mining in the larger Kakamega District was started by a British company, Rosterman Gold Mines. The company was incorporated and licensed in January 1935 to prospect and mine gold ores. With a capital of Sh. 400,000, the company pitched camp three kilometers East of Kakamega town at a quiet village which now bears the company’s name, Rosterman. Rosterman which closed down operations in June 1952 is believed to have milled about 655,000 tones of ore and produced over 259,000 ounces of gold, with a market value estimated to be about Sh. 4 billion. Since the exit of the British company, the interest in exploring gold deposits has been left to area residents and other small-scale miners. Experts believe that huge gold deposits and other minerals still remain embedded underneath the rocks in the province. This has renewed enthusiasm, and the once peaceful and sleepy village is now on a gold rush. The renewed gusto in the trade has also reopened doors for companies who are now making camouflaged inroads into the gold project. Most of them have now underpinned all their hopes for better living on the elusive money-making gem. As a result most people have been buried alive in the mines, while others have died after inhaling dangerous gases in the tunnels. Nevertheless, the surviving ones continue to explore the precious metal. Last month’s death of three miners in the area put Rosterman back in the news with miners crying foul over lack of the governments support. Elly Omondi 43, Cosmus Muteshi 28 and Maxwell Wanyonyi 23 met their death at on the evening of Wednesday, 13 April 2011 while draining water from a gold mine tunnel. Three others, George Simwa 33, Andrew Shilongo 43 and Joel Lukalia 24 were rescued by members of the public and rushed to Kakamega Provincial General Hospital where they were treated and discharged. Andrew Shilongo who survived the incident said the miners had spotted a Gold bearing rock deep in the tunnel and were using a generator to pump water out of the tunnel in order to remove it. The generator which was inside the tunnel, he said suddenly went off and the site manager Elly Omondi went down to fix it. He was however engulfed in carbon monoxide emitted by the generator and fell unconscious. It is here that Cosmus Muteshi and Maxwell Wanyonyi went down the tunnel to rescue him but also got suffocated. The tragedy put the entire gold mining process in the area on the spot with some leaders asking the government to ban the exercise. However the young men are undeterred because they believe their success lies in the tunnels. The entire mining process is impoverished. From the pulley system that drops the young men descending into the mines and bringing up the gold bearing rocks to the sorting of the rocks and grinding. The miners employ guesswork to locate gold deposits. “We do not have do not have machines for testing where the gold is,” said one of the miners. Once the decide to prospect gold at a certain place, they dig tunnels 50ft deep where they place wooden supports on the walls to prevent it from caving in. More tunnels are dug to connect to the mining base to avoid suffocation. And when it rains they drain the mines manually or use a generator and candles to light their way in the underground tunnels. Quite dangerous! “All the work is done manually, once we bring the tones out of the tunnels the stones we beat them down into manageable pieces using harder stones,” says Protus Jamhuri a gold miner at Rosterman. The pieces are them put between two harder rocks and ground into powder. The powder is then put in water to wash off light rocks until a small residue of gold is left at the bottom of the metal basin. The gold is then heated at temperatures ranging between 10-90 degrees Celsius to turn it into metal. “We put the gold on a metallic basin and depending on the available resources, we heat using gas or a stove,” adds Protus. The weighing is done by two flattened bottle tops balancing on a pencil and small weights in grams and fractions. According to Protus, on average the miners at Rosterman collect up to 10 grams of gold everyday which if sold in Nairobi fetches them Sh. 24, 000 which they share amongst themselves. However, he contends to raise the 10 grams is no joke. It takes time, dedication, commitment and team work. “We don’t have time to rest so we have divided ourselves into two groups, one mining during the day and the other at night,” he says. At the mining sites, cooking utensils, fireplaces and spare clothes give a clear testimony that work here is non-stop. With this entire money one would imagine that the miners here live on the first lane but no. Ironically most of them live in mud huts. Exploitation by middlemen and cartels means that the benefits rest buried in pockets foreign to them. It is estimated that about 3,000 young people in the province labour in gold mines but the earnings from their sales on the black market are not rewarding at all. Western Provincial Mines and Geology Officer Mr. Evans Masachi says the government has established an elaborate programme to monitor mining activities in the province to ensure that all licensed miners operate within the set guidelines. He says due to renewed enthusiasm in mining gold in the area small companies that are not licensed have started making inroads into the area. However, he says it is not easy to determine the amount of gold mined in the area by the companies and individual miners since some do the mining in their own farms and are very secretive about their dealings. Mr. Masachi adds that the government has embarked on training the miners on safety mining methods to reduce accidents and deaths since it is not possible to stop the exercise. Some of the measures being enforced by the government include fencing off mining areas, covering tunnels, timbering of tunnels to avoid caving in, digging of breathers for pumping air into the mines to avoid suffocation and use of strong and fastened hand pulleys. In addition the miners have been directed to mine during daytime, anchor generators and draining pipes on the ground surface to avoid accumulation of fumes in the holes, use protective clothing, avoid working under the influence of alcohol and ensure they have a well equipped first aid kit on site. To safeguard the environment, Mr. Masachi says the miners have been directed to fill all holes which are not in use and stop dumping mercury into the ground so as not to get into the rivers. The miners have also been urged to use masks to avoid inhaling dust and mercury fumes and use plastic gloves when handling mercury. However the biggest challenge is how to monitor and ensure that the measures are being implemented. John, Muteshi, a gold miner in Ikolomani says acquiring the equipment and protective gear is not easy since they are expensive. He says the descend in the tunnels without masks or any protective gear thus exposing themselves to mercury fumes. He says, since gold is their only source of livelihood, the government must step in and provide the equipment.

Volunteer information to curb insecurity, wananchi told


 

BUNGOMA NORTH

Saturday, August 27, 2011                 By Chris Mahandara.

Members of the public have been urged to volunteer information to police to rein in on armed robbers terrorizing residents of Bungoma North district.

Following an increase in cases of armed robbery and murder in the area, the government has asked members of the public who have firearms illegally to voluntarily surrender them.

Western Provincial Commissioner (PC) Mr. Samuel Kilele said the government will take stern action against those found with firearms illegally in the area.

Speaking during the burial of Mrs. Margaret Kakai Asengi, who until her death was an assistant chief for Mukuyuni sub location, the PC said police will treat information given to them with confidence to bring to book perpetrators of crime in the area.

Mrs. Asengi was shot dead by armed gangsters last Friday outside her home as she responded to a distress call from a neighbor who had been attacked.

So far nobody has been arrested in connection with the killing. The killing comes barely two weeks after Webuye Deputy Mr. Timothy Karandini was shot dead at his home in Webuye by thugs who were armed with AK 47 riffles.

“She was in charge of security here and now that she has been killed we are not taking it lightly,” said the PC.

 

 

 

APs donate food worth Sh. 600, 000 to hunger stricken families in Turkana


KAKAMEGA            Saturday, August 27, 2011

By Chris Mahandara.

Administration police officers from Kakamega Central today dispatched food worth Sh. 600, 000 to hunger stricken families in Turkana.

This follows a month long campaign dubbed “Donate Unga and Save a Life in Turkana”  the brain child of Kakamega AP Commandant Francis Kooli who recently covered 260km from the Town to Nakuru to raise blood and save a life.

Speaking after flagging off the donation, Western Provincial Commissioner Mr. Samuel Kilele said the campaign realized 7, 886 kgs of maize, 128kgs of beans, 96 bottles of water, 113 kgs of rice, 189 packets of milk and clothes worth Sh. 5, 000.

The PC commended the APs for the noble initiative saying the officers who work with communities at grassroots were touched by the plight of families affected by food shortage in Turkana and decided to forego meals to donate.

He thanked members of the public for partnering with the APs to make the campaign a success.

Superintendent Kooli, said the initiative demonstrates the force’s commitment to enhance good relationship with members of the public.

‘We realized that in the past there was a big gap between the officers and members of the public but initiatives like this keep us closer,” he said.

West Kenya to relocate factory to Busia


Friday, August 26, 2011

By Chris Mahandara.

West Kenya Sugar Company has expressed interest in relocating its mill in Kakamega North district to Busia to tap into the vast sugar market. In a letter to the Kenya Sugar Board, West Kenya Managing Director Mr. Tejveer Rai said the move was a response to the plight of the people who have been yearning for a factory in the area. Mr. Rai said the company was interested in putting up a factory on public land at Nasewa which has been a bone of contention between the farmers and Mumias Sugar Company. The farmers who recently demonstrated to protest over the sell of the land by Mumias Sugar Company welcomed the idea saying it would assist them find ready market for their sugar. Busia Out growers Company Director Mr. Steven Omuse said it was illegal for Mumias to sell the land at a time when farmers were in dire need of a factory. Omuse said the alleged Sh. 119 million debt Mumias demands from the farmer has already been recovered since the factory has managed the land for many years. Farmers in the area, he said have resolved to cut links with Mumias and appealed to the government to allow a private investor to set up a factory on the land to serve Busia and Ugenya. Apart from West Kenya, four other companies have expressed interest in setting up a factory in the area.

New weather station for traditional rain makers


EMUHAYA

Tuesday, August 23, 2011         By Chris Mahandara.

The meteorology department has partnered with IGAD to set up a modern weather forecast station at the foot of Ebusiekwe hill in Emuhaya district.

The station will be equipped with state of the art equipment to forecast weather for the whole country.

Emuhaya Member of Parliament (MP) Dr. Wilbur Otichilo said the station would also have a resource center and offices for traditional rain makers of Bunyore.

The famous traditional rain makers would run a parallel programme with professional weathermen from the meteorology department where they will compare notes from time to time to provide an accurate weather forecast.

Speaking to Kakamega Times, Dr. Otichilo added that a radio station would also be set up to provide information to the public.

The FM station which goes on air early next year, he said will air development news and programmes at the same time highlight the culture and traditions of communities living in western province.

The move, he said was in line with the constituency’s strategic plan which aims at preserving the region’s culture and fostering development.

He said the legendary traditional rain makers who use a mix of science and tradition are finally getting recognition.

Landlords and small scale businessmen cash in on students


KAKAMEGA August 15, 2011

By Johnson Keti

Landlords and small scale traders within Kakamega municipality are now running lucrative businesses after first year students reported at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) last week.

The high demand for accommodation created by Self Sponsored students has seen landlords increase the rent for hostels and houses to cash in on the high demand.

Mr. Charles Chivanga, a landlord near Lurambi said that students started booking single rooms in his complex in July when they were still under construction. He said that he did not expect that all his rooms will be occupied that fast.

He pointed out that being close to the university has earned him an advantage over his competitors situated kilometers away.

Mr. Chivanga said that demand for accommodation was very high in areas such as Koromatangi, Sichirai and Embakasi due to their proximity to the university.

The rent of a single self contained room  is Sh. 5, 000 but students are forced to pay Sh. 20, 000 per semester.

“We ask them to clear with us because some of them refuse to pay once they have secured the house,” he said.

Masinde Muliro, Kenya’s youngest public university is experiencing acute shortage of accommodation following an increase in enrollment.

Last week Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof. Sibilikhe Makhanu said the university has a shortfall of 7, 000 accommodation spaces.

The situation, he said is likely to get out of hand given the double intake and the university was expanding by over 1, 000 students per year.

He called upon investors to take advantage of the situation and build hostels to accommodate the students.

He said the university was now considering entering into Public private partnership to allow private developers to construct and run hostels on university land for a stipulated period.

Besides landlords, small scale traders are also making good business due to the high demand of food stuffs in the evening that has led to a slight increase in the price of tomatoes, Irish potatoes and maize.

Three tomatoes that are sold at Sh.10 in town are sold at Sh. 20 in the evening with traders forced to sell up to late in the night.

The intake has also led to opening of cafés that were closed earlier in May when the university closed for a holiday.

Bodaboda cyclists have not been left out. They are making a lot of money ferrying students to and from campus.

Sh.419.1 million to conserve montane hotspots in Kenya


KAKAMEGA       Monday, August 22, 2011

By Chris Mahandara.

The Global Environment Fund (GEF) has issued a Sh. 419,130,000 grant to strengthen and conserve forests within the Eastern Montane Hotspots in Kenya.

Under the four year programme, the landscape of forests lying within the montane region in Kenya would be improved.

Communities living around the protected areas like the Mau, Cherangany, North and South Nandi and Kakamega forests would be sensitized on the need to protect and conserve the forests.

The funds would also be used to improve the biodiversity of the protected areas at the same time assist communities involved in the conservation of forests develop management plans.

Mr. Washington Ayiemba, site support specialist at Nature Kenya, the implementing agency of the programme said the biodiversity of the hot spots was endemic adding that the programme would come in handy to ensure that the endangered species are protected.

The forests, he said were under siege due to rising population adding that the programme would assist the government in the enforcement of legislation to conserve the forests.

He pointed out Kakamega forest which is the only remaining tropical rain forest in the country saying due to population pressure, the forest was under siege.

“The management plans would enable the communities come up with conservation measures and income generation generating activities that are not harmful to the biodiversity of the forests to improve their livelihoods,” he said.

 

 

 

Residents cry foul over insecurity


BUNGOMA NORTH         Monday, August 22, 2011

By Chris Mahandara.

Residents of Bungoma North district have appealed to the government to mop out illegal firearms being used to terrorize and kill innocent lives in the area.

Led by Dr. Leonard Masinde, a resident of Mukuyuni in Bungoma North district they said insecurity along the Webuye- Kitale road had reached unprecedented levels.

Dr. Maside whose home was attacked by armed thugs on Friday said the thugs who were armed by an AK 47 riffle fired one round of ammunition through his sitting room window after he refused to open the door.

He said this was the third time his home was being attacked adding that some of the suspect who were released due to lack of evidence over the last attacks were believed to be behind the Friday night attack.

The thugs who the same night shot dead Mukuyuni sub location assistant chief Mrs. Margaret Asengi are still at large.

The assistant chief was shot outside her home after she got out to respond to a distress call from Dr. Masinde’s home.

The killing comes barely two weeks after Webuye Deputy Mayor Mr. Timothy Karandini was shot dead at his home by thugs armed with AK 47 riffles.

Western Deputy Provincial Police Officer Mr. William Twere Okello said the thugs are believed to be from the area.

He said police were following crucial leads that would lead to their arrest urging members of the public to volunteer information to the police.

“If you know that your neighbor is a thief or has an illegal firearm pleas give us that information so that we can protect you,” he said.

In an interview with Kakamega Times in his office today, the deputy police boss asked all officers commanding police divisions in the province to expand community policing committees to make them more effective.

The committees, he said were a sure was of wiping out criminals out to terrorize peace loving citizens.

Meanwhile, Western Provincial Commissioner (PC) Mr. Samulel Kilele has called upon area residents holding illegal fire arms to surrender them to the government voluntarily.

The PC said the government will not allow a few individuals to put the lives of others at risk adding that forceful disarmament would begin soon to restore security in the area.

The government, he added would assist the family of the slain assistant chief to meet the burial expenses.