Tetu struggles to wriggle out of the shadow of Nyeri town

Wamagana Trading Centre in Tetu, Nyeri. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Ever heard of a whole sub county without a town, police station, petrol station, a bank or even a sub county hospital?

Tetu Sub-County in Nyeri is an economic marvel. But despite its strategic location, it lacks the most basic amenities found in many other sub counties. There is no police station here and residents have to rely on four police posts and one Administration Police camp.

Tetu Constituency was established in 1988 and is one of the six constituencies in Nyeri County. It was hived off present-day Nyeri Central and stretches from the slopes of Aberdares all the way to the confluence of rivers Gura and Sagana.

The sub-county, however, is rich in agricultural with thriving tea, coffee and milk industries, largely attributed to the favourable climatic conditions and abundant water.

Mr Njaramba Wanjii, a local, notes that the lack of these facilities in the sub county has become the norm and people barely noticed it anymore.

He blames it on the geographical layout of the sub county which he said has made it difficult to develop.

“When Tetu was demarcated, it was done politically and did not consider social issues like where the people went to town, hospital, schools among other social activities,” he said.

At its creation, the central point for the larger constituency was Nyeri town with most activities located there. All the roads led to Nyeri town which also served as the regional headquarters of all the government offices.

However, since it became a constituency, the headquarters were moved to Wamagana area along the Nyeri- Othaya Road.

“To get to the headquarters, one has to pass through Nyeri town as there is no direct route to Wamagana and that shadows the growth of any town in Tetu,” he said.

“The Tetu that was left was not self-sustainable because despite being a highly agricultural zone, there was nowhere left to sell their produce,” he added.

Tetu was also the epicentre of the Mau Mau rebellion which had its base deep inside Aberdare forest.

“It was headed by Dedan Kimathi who was shot in Tetu at Karuna-ini just next to the Aberdare forest in 1956. The serenity of the sub county makes it a perfect tourist site but in Tetu we rarely benefit from this,” he added.

The political dynamism of Tetu has also been blamed for its slow development. No MP has ever survived a re-election and the electorate has a record of changing their representative in Parliament every election cycle.

It is however not all gloom as Tetu has produced some of the country’s best known leaders. Its most famous sons include the iconic leader of the Mau Mau Dedan Kimathi, Prof Wangari Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize while serving as an MP in Tetu, among other people.

Nyeri Lands Executive Dr Kwai Wanjaria acknowledged there has been lacklustre development in Tetu for many years but says the county government has plans to develop Wamagana, Gichira and Ihururu trading centres.

“There is land where towns can and should be developed. All that is needed are the market forces to drive the investors,” Dr Wanjaria said.

Tetu MP James Gichuhi blamed poor road connection for the slow development of the sub county.

He said that lack of a good road network to traverse the entire sub county has hindered its growth and profile since people have to travel to Nyeri town first.

“Lack of direct roads from one part of the sub county to the other has frustrated development because the central point where people of Tetu meet is Nyeri Ttwn,” he said.

He expressed confidence that a proposed network of roads to be known as Mau Mau would help connect the sub county and boost economic activities such as tourism.

“We have 108km of Mau Mau roads which will be built in the sub county and it will help open up Tetu. Then we will see development and more investors coming here,” said Mr Gichuhi.