Sh63b Arror, Kimwarer dams haunt Rift leaders ahead of polls

A file photo of workers at at Kipsaiya, Elgeyo-Marakwet County, where Arror dam is to be constructed. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The much hyped Sh63 billion Arror and Kimwarer dams have resurfaced to haunt Rift Valley leaders, less than two months before the General Election.

More than 900 families displaced to make room for the projects have demanded an audit of the Sh6 billion compensation.

The families have piled pressure on local leaders, including Deputy President William Ruto and Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, claiming the two had misled them on compensation.

“We fail to understand why these leaders were advocating for the implementation of the project while keeping silent on compensation for the process,” said Isaac Yego. 

“They landed here in helicopters wooing us to accept the project but said nothing on our next settlement, among other payments.”

They cautioned politicians against capitalising on the projects to gain support ahead of the August General Election, noting that they will continue to push for the construction of the multipurpose dams once a new administration takes over.

“What we know is that the twin projects were meant to transform the Kerio Valley in terms of food production and power generation but the entire process was hijacked by the political class for personal gain,” said Mathew Kaino.

Displaced families were promised about Sh6 billion in compensation for properties lost, including land, for the ambitious projects that were to serve more than 50,000 people in the highland and lower parts of the vast semi-arid Kerio Valley region.

But the projects were rocked by mega scandals. A technical team appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta cancelled the Sh22.2 billion Kimwarer dam in Keiyo South sub-county, finding that it was overpriced and was not technically or financially viable. But it approved the Sh28.3 billion Arror dam in Marakwet East sub-county.

DP Ruto’s brigade previously blamed President Kenyatta’s team for the failure of the Arror and Kimwarer dams.

DP Ruto has repeatedly denied reports that Sh21 billion allocated to the Arror and Kimwarer dam projects were lost.

“It is a flat lie. The money in question is Sh7 billion and for every coin that has been paid, we have a bank guarantee,” said the DP at previous rallies while defending the project. 

“No money will be lost, because we are a responsible government. We have engaged all arms of the government to ensure that public resources are safe.”

Dr Ruto wants to succeed President Kenyatta on a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party ticket under the Kenya Kwanza alliance.

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party presidential candidate Raila Odinga has waded into the Arror-Kimwarer saga, noting that the two dams would have been completed and would be serving residents of the Kerio Valley.

He accused DP Ruto and his allies of stalling the dams, which have become a hot political potato in the Rift Valley as the two State House hopefuls scramble for the region’s 5.3 million votes.

The Arror and Kimwarer dams were to be located in Elgeyo-Marakwet County, which is predominantly occupied by the Marakwet and the Keiyo, sub-tribes of the Kalenjin community.

For decades, the two groups have been at loggerheads over control of natural resources and political supremacy, resulting in the split into the Marakwet and Keiyo districts before they merged after 2010 to form Elgeyo-Marakwet County.

Their differences remain and the cancellation of the Kimwarer dam has reignited hostilities that have spilled into campaigns for the August 9 General Election.

Senior government officials, including former National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) ex-managing director David Kimosop, face corruption charges related to the two dam projects.

The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) pulled out of the land exchange programme for the Arror and Kimwarer dams after allegations of corruption.

Under the deal, the KFS was to surrender 400 hectares of forest land in exchange for 570 hectares that was to be recovered from private land surrendered by the displaced communities.

The KVDA, which was the government implementing agency, was to acquire about 6,000 acres of land including public forest to set up the twin multipurpose dams.

An audit report on the accounts of the National Treasury for the 2020/2021 financial year shows that Sh790.7 million was to be paid for the Arror dam loan and Sh1.26 billion for Kimwarer.

Construction of the dams was to cost Sh63 billion.