As President Uhuru Kenyatta seeks to secure his legacy, the ghosts of stalled projects in Taita Taveta County are likely to cast a shadow on the government he has led for about 10 years.
In the campaign for a second term, the Jubilee administration promised to implement several projects for Taita Taveta residents in a bid to win over their votes.
Among the mega projects pledged were the Sh35 billion Mzima II water project, Sh380 Bachuma Livestock Export Processing Zone, Sh300 million Ikanga airstrip, and Sh60 million Voi Gemstone Value Addition Centre.
With less than 15 months before the end of Mr. Kenyatta’s term, some of these projects are yet to kick-off while others have stalled.
Plans to build a second pipeline at Mzima, which was expected to draw over 100,000 cubic metres of water per day, remain at the concept stage. The project was meant to serve residents of the coastal counties of Taita Taveta, Kwale, Kilifi and Mombasa.
Since the announcement in 2017, the project has remained a pipe dream for residents. Four years later, the government has failed to allocate money for the project.
The second Mzima pipeline is meant to complement the existing one, which supplies 40,000 cubic metres of water per day and serves over five million people in the Coast region.
Coast Water Works Development Agency has sent a funding proposal to Exim Bank of China but it is yet to be approved.
However, Wundanyi MP Danson Mwashako said there is no goodwill from the Treasury and the Ministry of Water.
"I have raised this issue this week on the floor of the House because the government is not serious in implementing this project," he said.
Leaders in the county, he said, will need to consult with President Kenyatta on the way forward.
"This was his legacy project but there is no goodwill from the ministry and Treasury," he said.
At the Ikanga airstrip, Sh300 million has already been spent. The project stalled in 2016 after residents compelled the government to compensate them for encroaching on their land.
The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) had compelled over 45 landowners to vacate the area to allow for the upgrading of the airstrip but declined to offer any compensation to them.
KAA claimed the land belonged to the government and that the residents had encroached on it. After the push and pull, the government announced plans to compensate the landowners and construction is in progress.
However, the government is yet to allocate funds to complete the project, which is 98 percent done. The work involves extending the airstrip to 1.6km to allow bigger aircraft to land there, building sheds, an airstrip terminal, a waiting lounge, a security booth, and a perimeter wall.
Tourism stakeholders, led by Tsavo and Amboseli circuit chairperson Willie Mwadilo, said completion of the airstrip is long overdue as it is supposed to unlock the tourism potential of the area.
"We are hoping that it will be completed soon. We have waited for many years for this project to be realised. We know many tourists will prefer flying to Tsavo before heading to other destinations," he said.
The airstrip will also boost the mining and business sectors and generally improve the lives of residents.
In 2015, the government announced the establishment of a Sh380 million Bachuma Livestock Export Processing Zone in Voi sub-county as one of its key projects in the Big Four Agenda.
Since its construction began, the project has been marred by delays that have led to deadlines being extended by the contractor. The first phase is 95 percent complete while the second is at 65 percent
In February, the Ministry of Agriculture terminated its contract with Techniques Supplies Ltd over the company's failure to adhere to timelines.
The livestock export and processing zone project has been under the watch of President Kenyatta himself. In 2019, he made an impromptu visit to the site to assess work on the project, which had stalled.
The contractor then blamed the government for failing to release funds on time.
Announcing the termination of the contract in February, Livestock Principal Secretary Harry Kimutai said the government will take over the site and finish the remaining work. A visit to the facility revealed that the project has once again stalled.
Meanwhile, the Voi Gemstone Value Addition Centre has remained idle, four years after its completion.
Last month, Mining PS Andrew Kamau said the Sh50 million facility will be opened to artisanal and small-scale miners to start sealing their gemstones.
The services are yet to kick off.
"The sealing has not yet started. We are in the process of actualising it, hopefully by July," the facility's manager Edward Omito told Nation.Africa.
Work on the project started in 2015 and was completed in 2017. In 2018 assorted equipment was brought to the site but it has not been opened to the public.
"There are a number of equipment that are yet to be installed including cutting and polishing machines, bead-making machines, safe deposit boxes, laboratory equipment, and more booths for traders," Mr Kamau had said during his tour of the facility.
The government, he said, was gazetting rates for various services to be offered.
The government projects to collect over Sh3 billion annually from the facility, which is intended to prevent exports of raw stones.
One of the reasons for the lack of progress on the projects is the lack of funds due to budgetary constraints, especially after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since last year, much effort has been put into fighting the pandemic, affecting some of the projects that were to be implemented by the government.
On the implementation of the projects, Taita Taveta Senator Johnes Mwaruma said the Jubilee administration has taken residents for a ride.
The senator said he had raised the matter with the relevant offices but no action has been taken.
He noted that few projects have been implemented in Taita Taveta while huge multibillion-shilling projects have been implemented in other parts of the country.
"Other regions are getting multibillion-[shilling] projects but for us, we are getting very little," he said.
The county will benefit greatly from resources in the area instead of relying on the national government, he said.
"We have Tsavo (park) and minerals which we can benefit from if we plan well. This is the way to go," he said.
Mwatate MP Andrew Mwadime said the region has been left behind in development because the government has for years neglected it.
"The sole purpose of these projects is creating jobs for the youth as well as improving the economy. But now we are yet to see any tangible project from the national government," he said.