The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) has asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to shelve the implementation of the Sugar importation deal with Uganda, to allow for wider consultations.
Cotu said there is need for details of the agreement entered between Kenya and Uganda to be made public to clear doubts over what the President agreed with Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni.
The union officials led by the General-Secretary of the Kenya Union of Sugar Plantations Workers Francis Wangara, said it is misleading for the government to claim that the neighbouring country produces surplus sugar to be imported into Kenya.
The President should look for other trade options. Any country that imports sugar to its economy should not be allowed to export the same, Mr Wangara, who read the press statement at the Cotu headquarters in Nairobi, said.
The leaders criticised politicians aligned to the Jubilee coalition for duping Kenyans into believing that Kenyans stand to benefit from the deal which they argued is a scheme meant to benefit traders who have no interest in the sugar industry.
The Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (Kudheiha) Secretary-General Albert Njeru said it is wrong for Mr Kenyatta to solely commit Kenyans into foreign deals.
SET ASIDE AGREEMENT
The President should not be the only one determining what is good for Kenyans.
The agreement should be set aside to give room for thorough scrutiny of its details to see if it adds value to our economy, said Mr Njeru.
Instead, he said, farmers should be given incentives to produce more and the fight against corruption in state corporations enhanced so as to guarantee good management that can improve productivity.
The president and his deputy William Ruto have separately traversed Western and Nyanza regions in what is believed to be a deliberate effort to defuse growing protests over plans to officially open the borders for cheap sugar.
Mr Kenyatta has maintained that the deal to import sugar from Uganda to cover for deficit is for the good of the country whereas Mr Ruto has led another team of Jubilee leaders in accusing some Opposition leaders of being behind the woes affecting the sugar industry.
He said the two countries would partner to deal with rogue traders who repackaged imported sugar to sell at exorbitant profit margins.
But Mr Wangara said the deal would benefit a cartel that has been operating in the country in conjunction with their business partners in Uganda, at the expense of sugar cane farmers and workers.
KILL SUGAR INDUSTRY
These are the same people who convinced the President to enter into the deal in the pretext of promoting regional trade, Mr Wangara, who is also the Cotu trustee, said.
The unionists said the trade pact risks hurting the economy as it would kill the sugar industry as it happened to the textiles and leather industries due to importation of second-hand clothes and shoes.
Sugarcane farmers will be deprived of their livelihoods besides creating unemployment in a country where white collar jobs are scarce.
The agriculture sector employs many people and it should be guarded jealously, said Mr Wangara.
The union further raised concerns that supermarkets had also taken advantage of the mess in the sugar sector and were importing cheap sugar and repackaging it in their branded packets.
They are doing this illegally because they have no millers to produce their own sugar.
They buy little quantities from local millers and blend with the cheap ones.
We want to carry out an audit to unmask those behind this second generation sugar, said Mr Wangara.