The much publicized  sale of  the now defunct Pan Paper Mills in Webuye  recently renamed  Rai Paper for a paltry  price of ksh 900 million  was to say the least weird  and indeed a raw deal for the  people of Bungoma  and indeed  other stakeholders in  Western Kenya  plus the Nation at  large.

Suffice it to say that any operational activity at the reopened factory will re-engineer   the much needed economic

activity and   re-awakening  of  the now dormant  and sleepy town of Webuye, it  is my considered opinion and indeed  the view of other stakeholders in this region that the  deal  was not above board  as it leaves more questions  than answers  to the problem.

At the outset, it is  important to understand that  way back in 1972 when Pan paper was commissioned,  ample facilities were made available   to it  ensure  that the fledgling  Industry thrives at a time when  there  were  numerous opportunities for advancement.  The worst enemy to the progress  that was expected has  been  and to date remains  corruption  which continues bedevil  not only  the Paper Industry  but the whole Nation  at large..

With land in Nairobi  worth ksh 1.3 billion  at Kaptagat in  Uasin Gishu Country,  and Buildings  and  land  in Webuye  also  valued   in millions, it cannot be gain said that   the  ksh 900 million  sale literally means that  the Paper Mill was  sold for a  song  and there is indeed no other way to explain it except the same dreaded monster  called  corruption which is a major suspect and  must have been  at play here.

The people of Bungoma  like any other tax  payers across  the Republic are  entitled  to fair  play in the implementation of Government owned   projects like  the Paper Mill as  it   should  not be  lost  to observers that   other Business  enterprises where Government and therefore the people of Kenya have a stake in  have enjoyed better Government patronage  and support than the nebulous   exercise which  the former Pan Paper has been subjected to at the expense of locals.

A number of  interventions have  been made by Government to salvage sinking and  sometime financially strapped Corporations in which Tax payer funds have been  invested in the past and cases in point are Uchumi  Supermarkets,  Kenya Airways plus the Coffee Farmers debts to mention but just  a  few .

This brings us to  the contents of   a recent article  penned  by the Communication Secretary  of President  Uhuru Kenyatta at State House Nairobi  Mr. Manoah Esipisu  in which he enumerated a number of issue s which he claimed were the benefits  that  are  already being  derived from the re-opening of  the Paper Mill particularly for  Webuye people.

According  to  Mr. Manoah Esipisu  the  reopening of  the Paper Mill is  a major game changer  in Bungoma County and Western  region of the Nation  as   whole . This   is really    far from the truth as there are number of outstanding matters which for unknown reasons Mr. Esipisu either deliberately ignored or was not in picture of the same.

On the other hand since the  Paper Mill was  re-opened , there is no noticeable  hiring of staff  as promised  by the New Owners who had pledged to employ Five(500) staff upfront while at  the same time  they promised  to embark on  immediate production of Paper  and   it    is not the case  as I write. Unconfirmed reports  reveal  that contrary to the      direct re-hiring   of former   Pan paper employees,  the New owners  who also have interests in the  nearby West Kenya  Sugar Factory,  have been bringing  in at least 300 casual workers from the Sugar Factory or  from the Bungoma County Government.

As for production of paper, information available  so far indicates that   since it was re-opened ,  the  factory has been recycling used paper  to  make the paper for manufacturing cartons  contrary to initial expectations for  direct production of paper  is yet to begin. There  is  further information that the used  paper for recycling  is brought in from West Kenya Sugar Factory whose owners as  stated  above are said to have interests  in new Rai Paper  formerly Pan Paper.

Against the much touted “progress” which  Rai Paper is  expected to bring  to Webuye and  its environs once fully operational, there is however the nagging question of Environmental  degradation by the now defunct Pan paper but which  has  never been addressed  since   the time when the factory  stopped production.

It is therefore  inevitable that  under this n e w Management  and  operation of the Paper Mill,  NEMA should move fast to address  the outstanding environmental issues in order to protect  the people in Webuye town from  long and   many years of suffering  that has seen among other things roofs literally corroded  away  by chemicals  while  effluents   emitted into the nearby Nzoia River have also caused untold  havoc to the eco-system  round Webuye.


Wabwoba Mukhamule Walinywa    – Is a Media and Public Affairs Consultant based in Bungoma County.