By Toka Akhabele
WHEN Catherine Kihanya left Mumias Sugar Company to join President Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaigns in 2002, a young marketer by the name of ELIUD IKUNZA was hired to take over. KIDERO was at the helm when Ikunza took over as marketing manager.
Ikunza had worked as a marketer with Nairobi Bottlers before he left for Tanzania as marketer for Cocacola East Africa. His joining of Mumias Sugar was to provide a continuity to the revolutionary marketing that had been started by Ms Kihanya where the company had also moved to smaller packages of Sugar away from the 50kg packages.
Ikunza had sort of taken Mumias Sugar as sort of sentimental co. as we had schooled in the town where while at St. Peters Mumias, we had come to fondly refer to the company as MUSUCO if not Booker’s.
Sometime later, Ikunza had to meet a cruel death. He was barely 35 yrs. To him life had not even commenced. To the circles of his buddies, we suspected a foul play originating from the company. Sleaze was the order of the day and Ikunza had been overheard complaining of the vice. He died, he was burried and life went on.
I am sure today if i asked anybody from the company how many people died mysteriously, i would get a dozen or so.
Kidero had built a battery of shrewed and sleazy somali traders and transporters whom the company traded with. It can only be remembered that at Kidero’s time, most of the distributors and transporters of Sugar were somalis who took over from what previous managements had left; the kisiis and Kyuks. When accusations are labeled against the company over transit sugar, i would understand why some distributors would kill for Sugar here in Nairobi.
When Kidero left, the management that took over shifted again toward the Kisii transporters. The Somali guys resorted to imports which they debagged and sold as products of Mumias Sugar. They still do it even as of now, sometimes debaging and repackaging the same sugar as Kabras, a product of West Kenya.
Previously, when the current regime disbanded Kenya Sugar Board, they had already cancelled all import licenses and only left trusted proxies to import sugar. I had written on my timelines, then, that only 3 powerful kenyans were importing sugar and selling it cheaply as a product of Mumias. The sugar landed at the port of mombasa with a CIF of KES 1,900 a bag and the guys never paid tax but sold the same to the somali distributors at prices ranging between 3,000 to 4,000. How was this supposed to compete with Mumias sugar that left the company with a price tag of 4,000 a bag?
It is only imperative for any kenyan to believe that Kidero moved with his battery of Somali businessmen to imports. With the reorganisations of parastals, Sugar Board was killed and now they can never bite as they did previously.
Mumias Sugar was the only factory that was located in Western Kenya, the heart of Mulembe people. The other one was Pan Paper mills which is also killed.