Water, land and hunger key issues for Tana River voters

Fetching water

A woman fetches water in Bangal, Tana River County.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Governor Dhadho Godhana is seeking re-election on an Orange Democratic Movement party ticket.
  • His predecessor Hussein Dado will challenge him under the United Democratic Alliance.

Food insecurity, healthcare, land and perennial water shortage are the key issues worrying residents as they prepare to vote in the next governor, come the August 9 elections.

The race has so far attracted 11 candidates. Governor Dhadho Godhana is seeking re-election on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party ticket, while his predecessor Hussein Dado will challenge him under the United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

Also in the race are former assembly Speaker Nuh Nassir (Upia), Bura MP Ali Wario (Jubilee), former ODM Chairman Adam Dhidha (The Service Party) and assembly Speaker Justin Nkaduda (The New Democrats).

Others are Hassan Morowa (Pamoja African Alliance), Omar Manyotta (United Democratic Movement), Athman Ndoyoya (Amani National Congress), Solomon Buko (Ford Kenya) and Karahyu Deye (The Communist Party). The stakes are high in the battle for the county’s 130,367 registered voters.

Land is a particularly contentious issue, often leading to violent conflict. Some communities have accused the county administration of discrimination in registration. They have alleged plans to evict them from their homes while others claim losing pasture.

Governor Godhana is often credited with bringing a registry to the county and initiating a municipality charter. Despite his efforts, land remains a thorny issue.

Dr Nassir, the former assembly Speaker, has been vocal against what he claims is a biased land survey and adjudication process.

“The governor is on record profiling a community by calling them refugees,” he told a public forum recently. Mr Wario has said the land issue, if handled carelessly, may once again plunge the county into the bloodshed akin to that witnessed in 2012-2013.

On food security, Governor Godhana has made efforts to mechanise farming, partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN to provide seeds, funded climate-sensitive agriculture to the tune of Sh60 million and put up fish cold storage facilities. And yet a majority of residents face hunger, and  want a governor who will revive the county’s irrigation schemes.

“We’ve land that can feed this region adequately, but farmers are in debt and unable to work. We need to boost productivity,” says Hussein Barisa, a farmer. 

Healthcare features prominently in political discussions. Residents want a governor who will overhaul the sector and ensure proper funding of referral and sub-county hospitals as well a dispensaries and health centres in remote areas. 

The Dado administration was blamed for persistent drug shortages and lack of essential services like scanning, dialysis, and minor operations. The same issues have dogged the current administration. Residents say Godhana is more concerned with paying salaries than providing services.

“Health is allocated Sh1.3 billion, but Sh900 million goes to recurrent expenditures and only Sh400 million is left for providing services, which is not enough,” Mr Daud Dahir, an activist says.

Dialysis patients have been forced to travel to Mombasa despite there being a renal unit in the Hola Level Four Hospital.

While Governor Godhana pledges to invest in mobile clinics and universal healthcare in his second term, Mr Deye, insists he’ll fix the sector in less than 100 days in office. 

Mr Deye says his administration will raise the health budget to Sh2.1 billion, upgrade services at the local referral hospital and ensure health centres and dispensaries are well equipped. 

Despite the county government spending more than Sh1 billion to provide water since 2013, scarcity is chronic.

Budget reports show the Dado administration spent more than Sh800 million in water trucking while Governor Godhana has spent more than Sh500 million in drilling boreholes, water pans and water trucking.

“[After spending] all that money, we should be a place where other counties come to benchmark on water solutions,” says activist Miriam Malibe.

Dr Nassir has hinted at expanding water supply in towns and in rural areas. 

Improve livelihoods

Mr Morowa seeks to expand the economy by linking traders to international markets. He believes beef, mangoes, honey and bones have a huge market in Indonesia, Singapore, UAE, and India. 

Mr Buko, an economist, says the county has enough resources to change its fortunes but there should be accountability. 

Mr Manyotta, a retired teacher, says the county should invest in education to improve livelihoods.


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