A village in Suna East still yearns for electricity

Mama Peres Bokello outside her house in Warisia village, Suna East sub-county. 

Photo credit: Ian Byron | Nation Media Group

Mama Perez Bokello’s home in Warisia village, Migori County, is not connected to the electrical grid, and this is a source of sheer desperation for her.

She has to walk one kilometre to Kakrao, the nearest shopping centre, to get her mobile phone recharged and part with Sh20 for the services.

“That’s the life we are living. I have made several applications to Kenya Power to have electricity connected to my house but that has not happened,” she said.

Mrs Bokello, 53, is among residents of Warisia in Suna East sub-county whose homes are still waiting to be connected to electricity, though a transformer sits on poles just a kilometre away.

Villagers have almost given up hope, even with transmission lines passing over their houses. The national government’s rural electrification campaign seems to have bypassed the village.

Folding her hands in despair, Mrs Bokello said: “We hope that one day the relevant offices will understand our desire to have electricity.”

Her neighbour Fred Ochieng says the dream to be connected to electricity remains a mirage, with cartels exploiting vulnerable villagers and taking money from them with false promises that they will help them.

“There are people who came here in March this year and took our details. They demanded Sh2,000 from each home and promised to have the matter addressed by July this year. We have not seen or heard from them since,” he said.

Villagers for now rely on cheap solar panels to light their homes, but they complain that the panels break down easily.

It is common to find locals flocking to barber shops and salons at Kakrao to recharge their phones, with residents noting that they have tried in vain to get Kenya Power to hook them up to the grid.

Desperate for a solution, residents have turned their guns on Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, accusing him of failing to take up the matter despite numerous appeals made to his office.

Some of the solar panels used by area residents who are yet to be connected to the national grid.

Photo credit: Ian Byron | Nation Media Group

Development needs

They said Mr Mohamed had left the running of the Constituency Development Fund to local officials and rarely took time to meet residents and address their development needs.

“Our MP spends most of his time in Nairobi and barely comes to the ground. We are told he is busy helping the ODM leader Raila Odinga to prepare for campaigns next year,” said Charles Lokoye.

“He has concentrated on national politics since he accompanied Mr Odinga during the handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018 and he rarely takes time to meet those he represents and address their issues.”

Kenya Power regional manager George Nyambare said villagers will have to bear the burden of buying a transformer, which he said will cost Sh600,000.

“The affected households should make contributions so that we can procure a transformer that will serve the village. We

are in business and we cannot bear the cost where the monetary output cannot be realised,” he said.

In the absence of the MP, his aide Ochieng Ogejo, a former mayor of Migori municipal council, is the face of Suna East constituency.

Speaking to the Nation on Monday, Mr Ogejo called for calm, noting that Sh150 million had been set aside for installing electricity in the constituency.

Absence from the constituency

“Already there is an allocation of Sh150 million and the contracts are yet to be awarded. Let the residents maintain calm. They will be given the first priority when the project kicks off,” he said.

To calm rising discontent, Mr Junet, a second-term MP, on August 1 hosted Mr Odinga at his residence in a meeting attended by a host of dignitaries and party officials.

Mrs Jenipher Onyango chats with her neighbours at their home in Karao village, Suna East Sub County. She is among the families which have not been connected to national grid. 

Photo credit: Ian Byron | Nation Media Group

During Mr Odinga’s visit, Mr Junet downplayed the concerns raised about his absence from the constituency.

“We have protocols against Covid-19 which have led to the cancellation of public engagements and political functions and this has affected my activities on the ground,” he said.

Joseph Nyambori, a Migori County ODM official, defended the MP’s development record.

He said Mr Junet, the ODM director of elections, was doing his best to serve those he represents in Parliament.