President William Ruto is set to embark on a development tour of Nyanza region beginning October 6,2023 as he seeks to marshal support from counties that have traditionally supported Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition leader Raila Odinga.
The Head of State will be in Homa Bay before going to Kisumu where he will commission a number of development projects.
It will be President Ruto’s fourth visit to Homa Bay County after the August 2022 General Election.
His first visit which took place a few weeks after his swearing in was marred with controversy when leaders failed to accompany him to a church service. Some said they were not invited for the prayers.
Political leaders from opposition also boycotted his last visit to Karachuonyo during the homecoming of Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo.
His fifth visit will however be different as leaders led by Governor Gladys Wanga have welcomed the Head of State.
Among the projects the Head of State will commission is the rehabilitation of Homa Bay town pier.
This is part of the government's plans to revive lake transport and promote blue economy.
The pier and others including Kendu Bay, Mbita and Asembo Bay in Siaya county have been in dilapidated state.
They once served as major economic hubs for Nyanza region as chips would sail across the three East African countries and dock at the piers.
Besides Homa Bay, the other ports will also be rehabilitated.
ICT and Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo, Interior PS Raymond Omollo and Governor Wanga inspected the piers on Saturday ahead of the presidential visit.
They were accompanied by Kenya Ports Authority Managing Director Wiliam Ruto whose agency will undertake the rehabilitation project.
Mr Ruto said the agency has inspected the projects and work should begin after the ground breaking ceremony.
He said KPA has already sought help from a consultant which has designed the pier and laid down how it will be restored.
"Machines are on the way to the site and this is a dream come true. Local community should therefore support the project," Captain Ruto said.
Construction of piers is a collaboration between the county and the national government.
Its completion will ease movement of vessels across the lake.
It will also promote the local economy by supporting businesses along the lake.
In the design, the government plans to build a passenger waiting area, a cold storage facility for fish and a warehouse for keeping goods that will be important or exported to and from Uganda and Tanzania.
Mr Ruto also announced allocation of funds to purchase a ferry that will be used by commuters as they travel across the lake.
He said the ferry that will cost Sh 600 million will help people in the four Nyanza counties which are sharing the lake.
"The entire project will cost at least Sh 1.5 billion. It is meant to help local residents," Captain Ruto said.
Besides the pier, the head of state will also commission the construction of Kabonyo fisheries and aquaculture service and training centre.
Mr Owalo said the government is ready to develop all regions of the country including Nyanza that voted overwhelmingly for Mr Odinga.
He said Kenya Kwanza has made a commitment of initiating development projects in all corners of the state.
In Nyanza, the CS said lake transport will promote a blue economy.
"Youths and women will get employment opportunities. We are proposing a construction of fish landing sites in targeted areas so the fishermen get more profit," Mr Owalo said.
Meanwhile, the ICT ministry will continue to connect free WiFi including at beaches to be used by fishermen.
"Business has transformed to the digital space. Products can be sold online as opposed to the past when it was sold physically," Mr Owalo said.
Dr Omollo said it is incumbent upon the people of Nyanza to use the facilities to be constructed by the government to promote the local economy.
He said Kendu Bay town, which will be a major beneficiary of the restoration of piers, was a vibrant area before lake transport collapsed in the 1990s.
The town is now a pale shadow of itself.
The interior PS told Nyanza residents to welcome the president as he visits the region.
Dr Omollo also told residents to desist from destruction of public property. He was referring to instances where rioters have destroyed public infrastructure.
"You are allowed to demonstrate but you must do it peacefully. Let it not be that whenever you are aggrieved, you turn to public property and destroy them," Dr Omollo said.
Ms Wanga said she is happy with collaboration between her administration and the state.
She said restoration of lake transport is a massive investment.
"Constitutionally, it is expected that the county work with the national government. It should be in service of the people," the governor said.
Though the government welcomed development projects to her country, she said it does not mean she has jumped ship and now supports Kenya Kwanza.
"I am still in ODM but must embrace development. This is just a collaboration between the two governments," Ms Wanga said.
During the president's visit in January where he launched the constitution of affordable houses, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua said voters in Nyanza should support them in the next election.
Dr Ruto is likey to repeat the same considering that leaders from the region have always complained of being sidelined by previous governments.