When we parted ways here last week, I was holed up in Mwisho wa Lami waiting for someone from Kenya Power to come survey my home and connect it to an electrical grid. What I did not tell you is the long road we have travelled trying to get rescued from darkness!
Like many villages in Kenya, for many years, we never thought electricity would ever reach our hamlet because even Mwisho wa Lami Market, St Theresa’s Girls and other big institutions did not have power.
When I started constructing my large, modern bungalow, several people approached me claiming they could help me get connected to power.
“Huwezi jenga nyumba kama hii na ukose stima,” said Simba, who had been introduced to me by Nyayo. Simba mentioned multiple people whom he had helped get electricity. In between he dropped technical terms like way-leave, transformer, three-face, two-face, among others.
Then we came to the money bit. “We can make this thing difficult or easy,” he said. “If we officially make an application, you will pay over Sh300,000 since we need at least 10 posts. But I have talked to my Regional Manager and told him about you, and he has said we can charge you Sh10,000 per pole.”
I did not tell Simba that all my life I had never touched Sh100,00 at once. However he seemed to read my mind. “I know you are a teacher, and I know how much you earn,” he started.
“If you are serious, I can talk to my Regional Manager and we can look at the matter.” He promised to ask his boss to charge me Sh8,000 per pole, but he wanted a deposit of Sh15,000. Pius was around and he paid Simba Sh10,000 while I gave out Sh3,000. The next day, Simba returned with some people who mapped the routes the power-line would use. We added him Sh4,000. That is the last time we heard from Simba.
And we all forgot about electricity. Until 2019, when, out of nowhere, someone, riding a blue Kenya Power motorcycle visited me.
“The government now no longer waits for customers to come to us, we go for customers,” he said after introducing himself as an officer from the Rural Electrification Authority. He then showed me several photos of people who had been connected to power in their grass-thatched houses.
Why should we be connecting power in such houses and not your bungalow?” He asked. When I told him that we had been conned before, he laughed loudly, wondering how we fell victim to conmen. And to prove he was genuine, he had a letter addressed to me from the authority. The letter, which had my name, ID number and Land Title Deed number, was asking me to allow the authority to erect a transformer in my compound. Not only would I get power, but I would never pay for it.
“There are many people in Mwisho wa Lami who want the deal, but I chose you since the transformer will be safe here.,” he said.
All he wanted was Sh22,000 to facilitate this. “Your brother Pius is willing to pay Sh40,000 but he is never here, I have told my boss that our transformer will be safer in your homestead.” I paid him a Sh8,000 deposit.
He came back the next day to pick my ID, KRA Pin and other documents. Then the stories began, and he stopped picking my calls. I would later discover that he had collected money from three other people. I accepted my fate that we would never have power.
One day early last year just before coronavirus arrived, a lorry passed near our home. I noticed it was dropping electricity poles at intervals. At my gate, the driver stopped to drop a pole but their leader stopped him.
“This is power for poor people! Looking at this house, this is a rich man, let him apply and pay Kenya Power,” he said loudly. I went to see him.
“We are not Kenya Power, we are from KenGen, Kenya Power is nothing without us,” their leader said. He added that they had been funded by the World Bank to provide power to the poor. “Instead of the over Sh40,000 that people pay to Kenya Power, you just pay Sh10,000, and we connect you within a week . But this is not for rich people like you.”
After long discussions, he agreed to consider me as long as I got three other people and all we needed to pay was Sh13,000 each. I contacted my brothers Pius and Ford, and my cousin Kizito. We all gave a deposit of Sh8,000 each and they dropped poles in our homes.
A week later, they came with young men who dug deep holes – at our cost – in readiness for power connection. They then said we needed to clear the balance so they could bring the wires and connect us. Eager to get power, we paid. Two days later, we woke up to find all the poles gone. We were left with huge gaping holes in the village, and deeper holes in our pockets!
So, when Fiolina told me that her boss, who is a senior person in Kakamega and knows big people in Kenya Power, had got someone to help us join the grid, I was very happy and relieved that this time we were dealing with genuine people. He did not come on Sunday, but he came on Monday, and promised to return on Tuesday to pick my documents and map out the route.
He came on Wednesday to negotiate with my neighbours whose land the power line would pass through. I will do anything to get power. Golf can wait. I thank my wife’s boss for this connection.