Turkwel village
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Irony of 'dark' villages sitting next to Turkwel power station

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Residents of  Riting village in Turkwel area, West Pokot County in this picture taken on May 4, 2024.

Photo credit: Oscar Kakai | Nation Media Group

Every day when the sun sets, Riting village along the shores of Lake Turkwel is engulfed in total darkness. 

All activities cease as the villagers make haste to get home before darkness sets in.

Many families go to bed by 8pm, some as early as 7 pm. 

The irony is that the village sits next Turkwel power plant, yet it has never been connected to electricity.

The mud structures in the village paint a picture of a forgotten community, yet it has hosted a power plant for three decades.

Despite hosting a hydroelectric power station generating 106 megawatts, residents have nothing to write home about.

Located 76 kilometers from Kapenguria in West Pokot County, the Sh6billion Turkwel multi Hydroelectric Power Station has done very little for the host community.

Riting trading centre and the remote village located about four kilometers from the Turkwel station are yet to be connected to the national grid.

This is despite being the village being the host community more than 30 years since the power plant was commissioned by the late President Daniel Arap Moi.

Turkwel village

A section of Riting trading center in Turkwel, West Pokot County on May 4, 2024.

Photo credit: Oscar Kakai | Nation Media Group

A resident Dorine Cheptoo, a resident, says it is disheartening that they are still in darkness despite being living next to a power plant.

“We had high hopes when the government launched the Turkwel hydropower and multipurpose project. We have remained in darkness, yet power lines pass over our heads” said Ms Cheptoo.

Like Riting, several villages around the power statins are not connected to power, with locals depending on solar power for lighting.

The other villages around the Turkwel power plant without power are Lochokee, Kositey, Lorogon, and Emong.

Some villagers relocated to pave the way for the Turkwel dam, which now stands as a constant reminder of their unfulfilled expectations.

For the villagers, lack of electricity is their biggest problem. When the sun sets, they are forced to stop any other business and head to the safety of their homes.

Most residents use solar-powered lanterns and kerosene lanterns (Koroboi). 

The power lines that pass overhead are a mirage to the community, which has to contend with a lack of basic social amenities.

Many learners in schools like Riting Primary School and Lorogon Primary School do not access electricity.

The villagers have admitted that they feel sidelined by successive governments.

The roads connecting the power plant to the villages are dusty and dilapidated. 

“Since 1980, residents have never seen power. Our businesses cannot grow because we are in darkness. We urge the government to find a way of giving us electricity,” said Mr Dennis Yarapong, a resident of Riting.

Mr Yarapong also lamented that the villages are inhabited by snakes that attack people at night.

He said the residents had been hopeful that the power plant would open up the village and nearby towns.

“Sometimes we get fish from the dam, but we lack a market because there is no electricity and we can’t operate businesses beyond certain hours,” said Mr Samson Awiti, who is a fisherman.

Ms Cheptoo revealed that drugs at local dispensaries have been going bad due to the lack of electricity.

Turkwel village

A section of Riting trading center in Turkwel, West Pokot County on May 4, 2024.

Photo credit: Oscar Kakai | Nation Media Group

She faulted the Turkwel Hydroelectric Power Station for continuing to draw profits from the generation of electricity while failing to give back to the community that has hosted it for three decades. 

Kapenguria MP Samuel Moroto said the plant has not been beneficial to the Turkana and Pokot communities which have been feuding over the ownership of the land on which the plant stands.

"The company has for years used insecurity as an excuse for their failure to help the Pokot and Turkana communities. Kengen should initiate projects that are impactful to the host community,” he said.

Kacheliba MP Titus Lotee said poverty has forced hundreds of children in the region to abandon school despite the capability of the company to sponsor bright needy learners.

"Of what use is the plant if the residents do not benefit? Residents continue to wallow in abject poverty with the company drawing profits from the generation of electricity. The company must construct social amenities as a way of lifting the livelihoods of the community members," said Mr Lotee.

Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir acknowledged the concerns of the community, promising to have the problem solved once more power lines are installed.

The CS said a new electricity transmission line from the Turkwel hydropower generation plant will soon be operationalised.

"We have that programme to ensure the community living around also benefits from the facility," Chirchir said.