President Uhuru Kenyatta re-opened the Pan Paper mills in Webuye, Bungoma County yesterday during his tour in western Kenya, a move that has attracted an immense backlash from the public.
Pan paper, which has now been renamed Rai paper factory after it was sold to a private investor early this year.
“Re-opening of this factory will create a ripple effect to this town with former employees and residents of Webuye benefiting from its revival. We want to create jobs and kick out poverty,” Uhuru said.
Uhuru also said that his government would also clear three months basic salaries for all former employees through a gratia payment so as to allow the investor start on a level ground.
The investor, associated with several sugar industries, a plywood firm and an edible oil refinery in the country, is said to have purchased the firm for about Sh900 million, beating five other bidders and will allegedly inject a total of Sh6 billion ($60 million) in the multi-billion factory in the next few years. The company is now under by Tarlochan Ltd, a subsidiary of Rai Group of Companies.
Kenyans, however, took to social media yesterday to criticize Uhuru’s move to open the defunct Pan Paper, which is now a private entity, saying that the move was aimed at gaining political mileage and woo western voters. Panpaper factory was first commissioned by the late President Jomo Kenyatta in 1974 and, up until 2009 when it collapsed, Pan Paper was one of the largest manufacturing companies and employers in western Kenya.
Below are some of the views shared on twitter under the hashtag #PanpaperReopens:
Bob Odhiambo: It can be remembered that @UKenyatta refused to release money for the re-branding of #panpaper during his time as finance Minister.
Ike Kenneth: UK cannot pretend 2 be reviving Webuye Papermills when as Minister of Finance he put it under receivership b4 winding it up.
The Muthoka®: If Pan Paper is now a private company, then why is it being re-launched like a govt-initiated project?
AbetaUnBounded™: Won’t be surprised when no smoke come out of Panpaper chimneys after Uhuru opens it like those contractors leaving our roads #PanpaperReopens
nyandiga: Between now and 2017 elections, jubilee will reopen anything and everything including rivers #PanpaperReopens