What you need to know:
- Insecurity, land disputes pitting local communities and the military ,and drought mitigation measures are among the matters of primary concern to Isiolo residents.
- Their expectations are high but County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding told Nation Africa that President Ruto would only just attend the prayers and tackle the other issues later.
Isiolo residents have a list of priority issues for President William Ruto, who is visiting the county on Sunday for interdenominational prayers.
Insecurity, land disputes pitting local communities and the military and drought mitigation measures are their matters of concern.
Occupying 25,336 square kilometres of land and with a population of nearly 300,000, Isiolo is among the arid and semi-arid counties that have borne the brunt of insecurity, which is aggravated by perennial environmental catastrophes.
With more than 100 people killed in bandit attacks across the county last year and over 30 deaths reported in the last four months, insecurity is expected to feature prominently during the prayers at the Isiolo Boys’ Secondary School grounds.
Residents will be keen to hear when special police units for tackling insecurity in three hotspot areas, earlier promised by Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki, as well as police stations and posts will be established.
Prof Kindiki recently announced that the government would set up a General Service Unit (GSU) camp in Mlango, which has been a hotbed of attacks ostensibly perpetrated by bandits from the neighbouring Samburu County, as well as in Yamicha that is among the notorious drug trafficking routes.
Mr Hassan Jillo, a businessman, hopes President Ruto will announce how many mega dams the national government will construct in Isiolo in efforts to help pastoralists diversify their sources of livelihood by venturing into crop farming for enhanced food security.
“We have heard him promise other counties. We will be happy to hear if we will benefit from the mega dams,” Mr Jillo said.
Reports from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) indicate that the drought saw over 80 percent of water sources in the county dry up, forcing residents to walk an average of 10 kilometres to access the commodity, even as more than 150, 000 people were exposed to hunger due to threatened livelihoods.
President Ruto last visited the county a month before the August 2022 General Election while on a vote hunting mission, then as deputy president, as he sought to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta who was supporting opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Land dispute, airport
Residents also expect the Head of State to give the way forward on the protracted land disputes pitting local communities in Burat and Ngaremara wards against the Kenya Defence Forces.
The matter has turned into a court case, further delaying efforts to register the community land.
The military has been accused of hiving off part of the community land and causing a number of deaths after planting explosives near homes during training.
“The military has already put-up beacons on one of the disputed pieces of land despite existing court cases, making us fear we might be reduced to squatters in our own county,” one of the Burat residents, who did not wish to be named, told Nation Africa.
Also expected to feature during the visit is measures the government will take to ensure the Isiolo International Airport, that is part of the Sh2.5 trillion Lapsset project, is up and running. It was commissioned in 2017 after a Sh2.7 billion upgrade but has been lying idle for five years
The delayed extension of the airport’s 1.4 kilometre runway, and the lack of a fire station, control tower, aviation lights and cold room for cargo continue to prevent the realisation of anticipated gains.
The extension of the runaway to accommodate cargo planes is expected to cause traders to switch to air travel. These traders are horticultural farmers from Meru and Laikipia counties as well as miraa farmers from Meru, who transport the crop to Somalia and Nairobi.
Read: End confusion on miraa
Isiolo’s Agriculture Executive Yusuf Mohammed Galgalo said the airport’s operationalisation will facilitate the exportation of meat products from the abattoir that is expected to be completed in two months.
“The abattoir will be operational by July so that we are able to export meat products to the Middle East,” Mr Mohammed said, revealing that a Sh451 million boost by the World Bank and a Sh200 million allocation by the county would facilitate an upgrade to international standards.
Residents also anticipate Dr Ruto will speak about the elevation of Isiolo Referral Hospital to a level five facility, and Garbatulla and Merti Sub-County hospitals to level four status.
Governor Abdi Ibrahim Guyo earlier said the referral hospital that also serves patients from the neighbouring Meru and Samburu counties will soon be elevated.
“A team was recently sent [from Nairobi] to inspect the hospital. We are confident that soon, it will be upgraded to level five status,” Mr Guyo said.
Isiolo residents are also expecting the President to speak about the one-man-one-shilling formula of allocating national resources, which he opposed during his presidential campaigns and which is gaining traction especially in Mt Kenya region.
During his campaign trails, Dr Ruto’s team prevailed upon the ASAL counties to reject the proposal that was being fronted by Mr Odinga’s Azimio team on the grounds that the counties stood to lose a lot of funds.
Residents further want the President to speak about the wrangling between Governor Guyo of Jubilee Party, who has since changed allegiance to Dr Ruto, and a section of Kenya Kwanza-allied MCAs.
At the centre of the dispute is a brewing row between Governor Guyo and his Marsabit counterpart Mohamud Ali, who is also the United Democratic Movement (UDM) deputy party leader. He is accused of meddling with Isiolo’s issues.
The contest has seen three UDM MCAs occupy the majority leader’s seat in the county Assembly, with Kinna representative Abdinoor Jillo as the latest to be controversially axed and replaced with Garbatulla’s Abdirashid Ali.
Also, Isiolo’s leaders will likely lobby for more government appointments. Thus far, Mohammed Liban is the Petroleum principal secretary while Rehema Jaldesa is the Tourism chief administrative secretary.
The residents’ expectations are high but County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding told Nation Africa that President Ruto would only just attend the prayers and tackle the other issues later.
“He is expected to launch several projects and inspect existing ones at a later date,” he said.