As Homa Bay residents troop to polling stations to vote for their next governor on August 9, they will be hoping to avoid a repeat of incumbent Cyprian Awiti’s tenure, whose administration failed to deliver on nearly all the development projects he initiated.
Some have stalled—like Arujo animal feed plant and Kigoto maize mill. And while others, such as the county stadium, are being executed at a snail’s pace, many remain proposals gathering dust on the papers they were written with no ongoing work.
Of these, the Sh560 billion agri-city project in Rachuonyo, the Sh3.8 billion, 210-bed capacity hospital in Homa Bay Town, a pineapple processing plant in Kochia and a potato factory in Kabondo Kasipul stand out.
The Auditor-General and the county assembly have flagged some of the projects numerous times in annual reports as possible conduits for corruption.
Defended his government
Mr Awiti has often defended his government, saying, he was laying the foundation for devolution in his first term (2013-2017) with plans to fully embark on development in his second term (2017-2022).
He cites several obstacles as having derailed this plan.
During his “State of the County” address in March 2021, Mr Awiti blamed a prolonged court battle in which his then rival, former Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga, challenged his victory.
Loss of sight
He cites this and ill-health that caused him temporary loss of sight for his dismal report card.
“You can remember that after I addressed this honourable House in 2017, we were subjected to fierce court battles... Nevertheless we emerged victorious,” he says. “But as we celebrated our victory, I faced health challenges. But I thank God because I’m here serving the people with passion and humility.”
With less than two months to the polls, residents want assurance from candidates that they will deliver on their pledges.
At Olare Market, women sell pineapples by the roadside when they should be delivering the fruit to the factory for processing, had Mr Awiti’s 2013 campaign promise come to fruition.
Ms Patricia Odero, a 58-year-old mother of six, said she hoped for a better future when Mr Awiti promised to build a factory at God Ligisa in Kochia.
Nine years later, she still risks life and limb scrambling for business on the busy highway.
Some 40 kilometres away in Othoro in Rachuonyo East, farmers are wondering what came of Mr Awiti’s potato factory at Nyapalo.
The governor had talked of turning their produce into flour, chips and other products for sale in supermarkets and even export.
Ms Miriam Akinyi usually sells her potatoes to middlemen at Sh400 for 50-kilo bag. The same is later sold at Sh800 in Nairobi.
“Middlemen are taking advantage of us because we don’t have a good market where we can take our produce. How we wish the county government fulfilled its promise of putting up a factory here,” she said.
Interestingly, some of the pledges Mr Awiti made in 2013 and repeated in 2017 are the same that rivals in the gubernatorial race—Woman Rep Gladys Wanga and former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero—have listed in their manifestos.
Ms Wanga has pledged to form a team to study potato varieties that grow best in each part of the county and train extension officers to boost production. She will also build a potato processing factory, the Kabondo Sweet Potato Processing Plant.
Dr Kidero has not specified what he intends to do for every crop grown in the county, but his plans include encouraging the practice of modern agriculture to enhance the growth of maize, potatoes, cassava, tomatoes, sugarcane, avocado and other farm produce.
He has also promised to construct potato and pineapple processing plants in Kabondo and Kochia respectively.