There was joy and celebration in Webuye town Thursday as President Uhuru Kenyatta oversaw the switching back to life of the PanAfrican Paper Mills, which has not been in operation for more than 11 years.The factory, which has been the lifeline of the economy of the town, was dead until President Kenyatta started the initiative to privatize and revive the firm, so that the locals can continue benefiting.
This initiative was however opposed by opposition politicians, who have been raising objections with almost every development project the Government has initiated. With the first phase alone operational now, the factory, which has reopened under the name of Rai Paper, has already employed 500 people and when it is fully operational it is expected to employ more than 2000 people.
The factory has restarted with a production capacity of 80 tonnes of paper per day and this is expected to increase to 150 tonnes per day within the next three months.Speaking at the Pan Paper Stadium after reopening the factory, President Kenyatta said the revival of the factory will mean that Webuye town will once again return to its better days.
He said Webuye was a vibrant town with its population of mill workers, traders and their families. “It was a town that for many Kenyans represented Kenya’s ambition and progress. I am proud that the Jubilee administration has played this part in ensuring that Webuye rises again and that its people have access to more decent jobs,” said the President.The President also brought more good news for the people of Bungoma County when he announced that the government will pay a three-month ex gratia salary to former employees of the factory.
President Kenyatta said the revival of pan paper represents his aim for the entire country to return to and surpass its previous industrial levels. He said the Government will soon reopen Rivatex in Eldoret and this will create more jobs and eradicate poverty as well.
The President said his Government has been working hard to turn around Kenya’s economy, which was neglected due to wrong priorities pursued by politicians who do not have the interest of Kenyans at heart. “We are building roads, expanding access to electricity and reopening factories to create jobs for Kenyans. Our people have been let down by previous governments,” said the President.
President Kenyatta said tribal politics has been the root cause of poverty in Kenyatta. “The politics of tribalism and propaganda is what has taken this country backwards,” said the President
President Kenyatta said Kenya is succeeding under the policies the Jubilee Government has put in place. He said manufacturing output has increased under the new policies signaling the return of Kenya’s dominance in manufacturing in the region.
At Webuye, the new investor is expected to invest Sh10 billion in the coming few years and the new investors have committed to giving priority to former employees in building their workforce.
“I am happy to note that at full capacity, this company will employ 2,000 people directly in the next 3 years. Today, 500 Kenyans who a few months ago had no source of income are actively employed in this company, with many others indirectly are supporting this business,” said the President.
At this initial stage, the company will be producing craft paper, which refers to brown paper that is used in packaging, cartons and related uses. “When fully operational we will be producing newsprint, tissue papers and many more forms of papers,” said Mr Jaswant S Rai, the chairman of Rai Group, which is now operating Pan Paper.
Deputy President William Ruto criticized the opposition leaders who have spoken against the revival of the factory, describing their statements as worthless.
“There are many who are talking worthless things including claims of the sale value and delay in reopening of the factory. This factory was closed for 11 years and it is the Jubilee Government that has revived it. What delay are they taking about” said the DP.
Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka said the reopening of the factory is the best thing that has happened to the people of Bungoma. “This factory will change the face of Bungoma and this proves that you mean what you says and you say what you mean,” said Governor Lusaka.
Area MP Alfred Sambu said it was a nostalgic moment for the residents of Webuye who recall when Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta laid the foundation stone for Pan Paper in 1972.
Local leaders including Ken Wanyonyi and John Walukhe said the reopening of the mill is another milestone to add to the other big initiatives by the Jubilee administration in. Western Kenya.
Other initiatives by President Kenyatta in the region included the opening of Kibabii University, the construction of important roads in the region and revival of sugar factories. (PSCU)