Nyanza’s largest agriculture investor on Wednesday claimed opposition leader Raila Odinga and other politicians affiliated to him were frustrating his business through extortion, violence and eviction threats.
Dominion Farms Ltd CEO Calvin Burgess now wants the Interior Ministry to deploy security officers to the farm located in Yala Swamp, to protect him from “hired goons”.
Mr Burgess, in a letter to Inspector-General Joseph Boinnet and Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho, claimed political leaders were invading his farm.
In the letter, through his chief financing officer Jones Hewling and dated February 7, the company claimed that political leaders in the area had been hiring goons to target Mr Burgess.
On Wednesday, Mr Burgess alleged that trouble began when he refused to fund Mr Odinga and his ODM party, which, he said, would have been against US law.
“Ms Ruth Odinga (Mr Odinga’s sister) … pressed us hard to become a dealer in a prime location in Kisumu and we gave in. She took the rice and is yet to pay for it, five years later,” claimed Mr Burgess.
The American alleged that Mr Odinga had forcibly made Mr Leonard Otieno Oriaro an MCA in the area so that he could frustrate Dominion.
DEMANDED MORE LAND
“Mr Oriaro … demanded more land, claiming it was ancestral, despite being aware that it was a lake bottom before reclamation,” said Mr Burgess.
He said in 2010, 900 acres were officially given to the counties, adding to the 2,500 acres that the community already had.
He claimed that Mr Oriaro, the Alego Central MCA, told residents to block Dominion from clearing the northern area by planting more crops.
Mr Burgess said the county filed a suit in court to claim ownership of the former swamp but lost. Several other court cases followed, said Mr Burgess, who was speaking at Sixeighty Hotel in Nairobi.
He accused Mr Oriaro of mobilising the community to beat him and his employees on three occasions, forcing him to flee to the US. He also claimed Siaya Governor Cornell Rasanga had threatened to take the land.
During the press conference, former Alego Usonga MP Sammy Weya and a resident of Siaya, Mr Edwin Ng’ong’a, alleged that the farm, which had been in existence since 1999 had not helped the community.
“The farm is growing sugarcane and building a factory, whose legality has not been confirmed, because it has had a devastating effect on Lake Kanyaboli. The water level at the lake was receding fast because Dominion had closed the canal that allowed water into it,” said Mr Weya.
Mr Ng’ong’a dismissed Mr Burgess’ claim that he had employed more than 1,000 people in Siaya County.
Bondo MP Gideon Ochanda, whom Mr Burgess accused of trying to push the community into occupying his land, said he was taken aback by the allegations, because all along “I thought that Dominion Farms were in good relations with the local community”.
Additional reporting by John Ngirachu