Drama ensued at Kîangoi Coffee Factory in Gîchûgû Constituency Kirinyaga County when a section of farmers was locked out of a general meeting over their eligibility to participate in a voting process, an act the farmers termed as discriminatory.
During the general meeting held in all the three coffee factories under Rung'eto Farmers’ Cooperative society, farmers were expected to elect representatives for their respective factories, to sit at the cooperative's management committee.
However, some farmers from Kîangoi were in rude shock when they learnt that they were not eligible to vote since they are not residents of Rung'eto sublocation in Ngariama ward, Kirinyaga East Sub County.
"They have never turned me away when I brought my coffee harvests, why would they deny me my right to vote?" Said Faith Wawira, a Kîangoi coffee factory farmer.
She is from Njuki-ini ward but has been living in Rung'eto village, where she has been married for about three decades.
She notes that she has a right to elect a leader to represent her interests in the coffee industry.
"There are farmers who harvest less than 200 Kgs of coffee in a year and have been allowed to vote simply because their national IDs indicate that they were born in Rung'eto," she said.
Francis Comba, a farmer at the same factory purchased a piece of land in Rung'eto are but was born and raised in Ngiriambu of Njuki-ini ward.
He also did not take part in the election.
"Every farmer has a right to vote regardless of where he or she comes from. We all have common interests," Comba said.
They say that the regulation on locking out farmers who are not from the area was implemented two years ago.
"This is a discriminatory regulation,” said Joan Wawira a farmer.
She adds that society should not also receive their harvests if their rights are also limited.
The farmers are now calling for the regulation to be scrapped altogether
While confirming the issue via a phone call, Rung'eto Cooperative Society Chairperson Joyce Wanjiku said the regulation to bar such farmers from participating in elections was passed by farmers in one accord.
"That is true. If your ID reads you are not from Rung'eto sub location you cannot vote," she said and then hung up the phone.
Edward Nyaga, a Cooperative officer in Kirinyaga county notes concurs with the farmers that the regulation is discriminatory.
"In our next meeting, I will explain to the management the stipulations of the cooperative act on such matters," Nyaga said.
But despite of that confusion, elections were still carried out and Davis Muchira elected to represent farmers from Kîangoi coffee factory, while Linus Mucira and Jacob Kori were elected to represent Kiiî and Karimikui coffee factories respectively.