Lamu East: Shame of constituency with no tarmac road 60 years after independence

A section of Faza Island in Lamu East. The region has had no tarmac road since independence.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

Residents of Lamu East sub-County have endured living without even an inch of tarmac road since independence.

Despite other regions in Kenya, including Lamu West Constituency boasting of established infrastructure such as the Sh310 billion Lamu Port and the Sh10.8 billion Lamu-Witu-Garsen road, things are totally different in Lamu East.

The sub-county, which is almost half of Lamu County with at least 15 out of the 35 islands found in the Lamu Archipelago, has roads that are full of potholes, for the past 60 years.

Here, residents are still yearning for a day when a modern road will be constructed.

With a population of 22,258 people according to the 2019 National Housing Census, the main economic activity in Lamu East Constituency is fishing.

Lamu East constituency is known for being the region’s fishing hub, contributing about 70 percent of the total revenue earned from the industry across Lamu County. 

Despite playing such a major role, the endless pleas by both leaders and residents to have a tarmac road constructed in Lamu East continue to fall on deaf ears.

Infrastructural negligence

Residents who spoke to said they believe that the region is facing infrastructural negligence due to its size.

Elder Yusuf Omar from Kizingitini Island recommended that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) should consider splitting the constituency into two.

“Let there be Kiunga and Lamu East constituencies for ease of service delivery,” he said.

According to Mr Omar, that would make it easier to map areas for the government to deliver services.

This is due to the fact that the numerous islands in the constituency also make it challenging for the public to get proper service delivery.

Swaleh Kupi, a resident of Kiunga on the Lamu-Somalia border said most villages of Lamu East are neglected.

“Most of the islands here are far apart and separated by the vast Indian Ocean. I am confident that if the constituency is sub-divided into two, government service delivery will improve greatly,” said Mr Kupi. 

Lamu East Constituency has four administrative units which include Kiunga, Faza, Basuba-Boni Forest, and Kizingitini Divisions. Faza Division serves as Lamu East’s headquarters.

Terror prone

Apart from Faza, Kizingitini, Kiunga, Mkokoni, other islands found in Lamu East Constituency are Ndau, Kiwayu, Pate, Mtangawanda, Mbwajumwali, Myabogi, Shanga and Rubu among others.

Villages include Ishakani on the Kenya-Somalia border, Basuba, Milimani, Mangai, Mararani, Kiangwe, Bodhei and Madina all in the terror-prone Boni Forest.

According to the area MP Ruweida Obbo, residents have been facing difficulties in ferrying commodities from one place to another owing to the poor state of the roads.

Ms Obbo asked the national government to consider constructing roads in Lamu East, saying if such a move is taken, even security in the area will improve.

“It’s unfortunate that Lamu East Constituency has since independence lacked even an inch of tarmac road. My people here are suffering. Even the daily patrols and movement by our security agencies have always been hampered as vehicles keep on breaking down, all because of the bad road network here. We urge the state to consider constructing a tarmac road in Lamu East to enable us to also feel we’re part of the Kenyan citizenry,” said Ms Obbo.

The lawmaker also complained that apart from the poor road network, some villages in Lamu East Constituency also lack mobile phone networks. Among these villages are Siyu, Mkokoni, and Madina.

She called on the State to coordinate with telecommunication companies to erect masts in the affected villages to enable locals get connected to the rest of Kenya.

“We have no communication network connectivity in villages like Siyu, Mkokoni, and Madina. Let this be resolved soonest. I believe once roads and communication network is improved, even the security challenges faced at the moment will become a thing of the past,” said Ms Obbo, during a visit to Faza.