To many residents of Mumias and its environs, troubles that have bedeviled Mumias Sugar Company are a bitter tale that weighs heavily on their shoulders.
Every day they watch the sun setting on the rotting remnants of the once-giant and vibrant factory that was a source of pride and bread for thousands.
Today monkeys are spotted racing around abandoned structures chattering cheerfully as though they own the vast estate that used to be guarded by police officers, company security team and private guards.
Shrubs and flowers that were once well trimmed and maintained to make neat hedges around staff houses have overgrown into wild bushes. Metals including expensive spare parts in the transporters’ yards and around the factory have been plucked off and sold for a song as scrap metal either by vandals or by company employees during the disposing of of ‘non-viable metals in the factory’.
As the miller went down, so did the lively activities around Shibale town and its neighbourhood, condemning inhabitants to a life of grinding poverty.
“Life has become so difficult here. There is completely no money and soon there will be no life if something is not done to save the situation,” says Mr Sadiq Asasia, Shibale Traders’ Association chairman.
Mr Asasia said residents of Shibale ranging from former employees of Mumias, high school teachers and unhappy traders tell the same story — there is no money.
“Even though the economy has shrunk and poverty levels risen, there is only one good news — the bagasse that used to drop in their eyes and disturb residents is not there anymore and emissions from the factory that used to destroy iron sheets in the surrounding villages has disappeared,” Mr Asasia added.
Mr Sylvanus Otema has lived in Shibale Town for over a decade. He used to steer the defunct Mumias Sugar FC as the team captain. But for the last seven years, he has had to eke a living as a boda boda rider and coaching local teams.
This earns him between Sh200 and Sh400 a day, which is only enough for daily meals for his family. “It is just not enough for school fees, but I cannot find money for paraffin now that electricity and water were disconnected from the house we live in,” he tells the Nation.
Sugarcane transporting yards that harboured hundreds of drivers and loaders have since been closed and workers vanished, rather scattered to unknown destinations.