Works on an abandoned section of Kitui – Kibwezi road have begun in earnest after President Uhuru Kenyatta intervened to have an additional Sh3.2 billion released to the Chinese contractor.
The government, through the Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) approved the variation and extinction of the contract which was awarded to SinoHydro Corporation in December 2016.
Kenha has revised the contract which expired in February 15th this year to August 19th, extending the scope of works to cover Kabati – Mbondoni section and provided Sh3.2 billion to allow the contractor to complete the project.
In a letter seen by Nation, Kenha Director-General Eng Peter Mundinia, directed the Sino Hydro Corporation to ensure that the performance bond and insurance cover for the contract are extended accordingly.
Leaders from Kitui County have been accusing the government of reneging on the promise to fully tarmac the Kitui – Kibwezi road after the Chinese contractor abandoned the project midway, last year.
The project was terminated before reaching Mutonguni market, without connecting the Thika – Garissa highway at Mbondoni junction as earlier planned, leaving a section of about 25 kilometers in a deplorable state.
According to Mwingi West MP Charles Nguna, the Sh18.5 billion road project which was meant to connect the Port of Mombasa with eastern and north eastern counties had failed to achieve its full economic purpose of decongesting traffic from Nairobi – Mombasa highway.
Mr Nguna, in whose constituency the Migwani – Mbondoni section falls, told his constituents that he lobbied the government to extend the contract because there was no logic of abandoning such a major highway before it connects the Thika - Garissa highway.
“This is a class B road, which had been neglected for several decades and its essence was to connect Mombasa and Kitui, and ease mobility of goods and services across various regions” said Mr Nguna in a letter to Cabinet Secretary for Roads James Macharia.
Mr Nguna said while the community appreciates the project, abandoning the section would have disadvantaged his constituents and Kenyans at large.
The Kibwezi – Kitui –Mwingi road is a crucial piece of infrastructure that is part of the Northern corridor - an international highway holding key to unlocking the economic potential of the Ukambani region.
Experts say it is central in many ways to the country, especially in the success of Vision 2030, the economic blueprint which aims to make Kenya industrialised in 10 years, because it provides the shortcut from Mombasa to Addis Ababa.
While launching the project in December 2016, President Uhuru Kenyatta gave a commitment that the new road should connect the two highways Nairobi – Mombasa highway and Thika – Garissa highway.
Eng Mundinia said based on the scope of works and budgetary constraints, the contract signed with Chinese contractor Sino Hydro Construction had to be terminated before connecting the Garissa highway but additional funds have been sought to do the remaining section.
The MP thanked the President for intervening after construction works stalled last year and the contractor pulled out.
“It has not been easy securing this funding in the current economic crisis to make the project a reality and for the people to reap the fruits of devolution. On behalf of Mwingi West and Kitui County, we’re very grateful to the Government,” the MP said.