Bomet East: The constituency with half a kilometre of tarmac

Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok. 

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

Majority of Kenyans imagine that having produced two Presidents - former President Daniel Moi who was in charge for 24 years and now President William Ruto - most parts in Rift Valley region are littered with development projects.

Roads and general infrastructural facilities are expected to be top notch with Mr Moi having been Vice President for 12 years under founder President Jomo Kenyatta, and Mr Ruto after him for 10 years (as Deputy President) second in command to former President Uhuru Kenyatta.

But a constituency in the South Rift Valley region has been pushed to the limelight for lack of tarmac roads while neighbouring constituencies have had their fair share of the facilities funded by the government. 

Bomet East constituency has generally lagged behind in development due to poor infrastructural facilities in what has over the years resulted in brain drain with professionals relocating to areas with better facilities.

Tenwek-Merigi-Tegat-Chemnaner-Longisa road in Bomet East

A photo illustrating where the tarmac ends on the Tenwek-Merigi-Tegat-Chemnaner-Longisa road in Bomet East constituency on December 20, 2022. Its construction was suspended by a Chinese contractor after the government cut off funding, but President William Ruto has directed that works resume next month. 

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

The constituency is the only one in the region that has less than one kilometre of tarmac in what lifts the lid on poor leadership and skewed allocation of resources by the government.

The constituency did not even benefit from the 10 kilometres per constituency that the Jubilee administration rolled out in the 10 years it was in power.

When former President Kenyatta's Jubilee administration identified a 75 kilometre ring road around the constituency that would have sorted the infrastructural challenge to a greater extent, as one of the flagship projects in 2013, awarded tender for its upgrade, with a contractor moving to site in 2019, the region's residents were elated.

The Tenwek - Merigi - Tegat- Chemaner, Kimuchul - Kembu - Longisa, and Kaporuso - Kapkimolwo road was upon completion expected to ease transportation and enhance trade between the region's residents.

But it has instead turned into a nightmare in the last two years, with the Chinese contractor abandoning site after Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KERRA) starved it of funding.

A total of 4.5 kilometres of the road that has so far been upgraded to bitumen standards fall under the neighbouring Bomet Central constituency.

Half a kilometre of the road is in Bomet East constituency, which ideally is the beneficiary of the facility's upgrade.

The construction has terminated at Merigi area, some 200 metres from Sot Technical Institute (TTI) that has 3,200 students.

Bomet Senator Hillary Sigei

Bomet Senator Hillary Sigei (left), Bomet East MP Richard Yegon and Bomet County Commissioner Dr Ahmed Omar address journalists at Fairhills Hotel on December 23, 2022. Mr Yegon has appealed to President William Ruto to have funding taps re-opened for a 75-kilometre road in the constituency. 

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

Poor roads network has persisted despite the fact that the constituency has three private tea factories - Kisyet, Maner and Stegro. 

The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) has shunned the area in setting up of tea factories, concentrating them in Bomet Central and Konoin where roads infrastructure is good.

President William Ruto has now given hope to the residents with his directive last Sunday at a prayer rally in Bomet Green stadium that the construction will resume next month. 

It follows repeated appeals by area Member or Parliament Richard Yegon to the President to prioritize funding of the road to ease transport nightmares among the residents and help spur economic growth.

"Unfortunately, Mr President, in the entire region, Bomet East stands out as the only marginalized constituency with less than a kilometre of tarmac as the Chinese contractor that was awarded tender suspended works after the government cut off funding for the road" Mr Yegon told the President in Bomet last Sunday.

Mr Yegon said while the other five constituencies - Bomet Central, Konoin, Chepalungu and Sotik had their fare share of tarmac roads and other development projects, Bomet East lacked behind.

"My predecessors were voted out because of the poor state of roads and general development. Please Mr President help me to revive and complete the road so that I do go down that same route as the leaders who came before me" Mr Yegon earlier told Dr Ruto three months ago at Kericho Green stadium during a prayer rally.

In 2020, having mobilized equipment to the site after being awarded a tender, the contractor graded 10 kilometres and tarmacked five, before sacking workers and parking heavy equipment and trucks at a holding site.

The revival of the project as directed by the President also includes the Longisa-Kipreres-Sigor road in the constituency, whose tender was issued over a year ago but construction is yet to start.

Tegat sub county hospital in Kembu ward is regarded as the "sick" hospital of Bomet county due to perennial lack of drugs, failure by the county government to post adequate and qualified medics to man it, in what is attributed to poor roads network.

"Poverty level is very high in the constituency despite it being an agriculturally endowed region, schools perform dismally in national examinations for lack of supervision of teachers and learners by education officers while health centres and dispensaries are in pathetic conditions" said Ms Caroline Langat, a resident of Kipyosit village.

Mr Benard Makiche, the Kembu Member of County Assembly (MCA) said the constituents were looking up to Dr Ruto's administration to fix the infrastructural challenges in the area.

"Delivery of cash crops, especially green tea leaves to factories, pyrerthrum and food crops including potatoes, cabbages and avocadoes to markets has been a major challenge due to impassable roads especially during rainy season" Mr Makiche said.

Mr Peter Kones, a resident of Tendwet in Kaporuso sub location said for decades residents had been made to travel on foot as there are no public service vehicles operating in the region due to high maintenance costs resulting from poor roads network.

"Private vehicle owners have to slowly navigate through worn out sections of roads in the region that have been washed out by storm water, so to boda boda riders, lest their vehicles are damaged. It is a very unfortunate and sad case" Mr Kones said.

The same scenario is replicated in five civic wards - Kembu, Chemaner, Merigi, Kipreres and Merigi in the constituency.

"Investors can not venture to Bomet East despite the high potential for growth due to poor road networks" Said Ms Irene Rere a youthful politician and businesswoman.

Underdevelopment of the constituency has been witnessed despite it having been represented in parliament by powerful leaders including the late Isaac Kipkorir Salat, a former powerful assistant Minister in the office of the President during former President Daniel Moi's regime.

Former Powerful Minister of State in the Office of the President the late Kipkalya Kones who also served as Minister for Roads, Minister for Vocational Training in the Kanu regime, and later as assistant Minister for Public Works and Minister for Roads during President Mwai Kibaki's tenure was the area MP for over 20 years.

He was succeeded by his wife Ms Beatrice Kones after the fatal plane crash in 2008, and she went on to serve as an assistant minister for Home Affairs, before being trounced in 2013 general election by a political novice Mr Benard Bett who served one term. 

Ms Kones' bounced back in 2017 general election but bowed out of elective politics voluntarily ahead of the last general election.

Embattled Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat also served as the area MP between 2002 and 2007

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