As election campaigns intensify, politicians are once again taking to podiums with pledges to do this and that for voters.
A closer scrutiny of politicians’ utterances, however, shows that some of them have made certain issues permanent campaign items every election year.
As the campaign season for the 2022 elections takes off, political observers are urging voters to screen their leaders in a structured manner.
In Nyanza, promises to end perennial flooding in the Nyando basin and revive the sugar sector remain some of “the biggest campaign pledge lies” that politicians have used over and over again to woo voters in the region.
The two issues are likely to feature prominently again in the manifestos of many aspiring politicians as campaigns start for the 2022 General poll.
Also on the campaign ‘con tray’ are the revival of Kisumu Cotton Mills (Kicomi), the rice sector and fishing.
Politicians have perfected the art of deceiving voters who desperately desire certain projects but who are then abandoned as the elected leaders, having secured the votes, disappear to Nairobi, only to reappear occasionally for burials until the next election to carry on the cycle.
It is easy to conclude that the political leaders do not wish to see a permanent solution to these issues, because they need them for their campaigns.
This is particularly true for Nyando flooding, which has caused many deaths and suffering, with many people displaced from their homes every year.
The same politicians who promised to push for a lasting solution to the flooding troop back to displacement camps to donate food and other items, drumming up support for themselves as they do so.
Residents in the flood-prone areas of Nyando have urged the national government to fast-track the construction of the Sh24 billion Koru-Soin dam to help mitigate flooding in the lower areas of the River Nyando and supply water for domestic use, irrigation and hydroelectricity.
Work on the dam was to start in June 2020 after designs and feasibility studies were finalised and a tender notice issued. But the project remains a mirage for the people of Kisumu.
The problems in the sugar sector have also been a thorn in the flesh of farmers in a region that boasts at least four millers.
Sony Sugar, Chemelil, Muhoroni and Miwani, all State-owned sugar mills, are crippled by debt. Yet promises to find a lasting solution always feature in politicians’ campaign promises every election season.
In Migori County, political leaders have constantly used the cash-strapped Sony Sugar as a campaign tool to win the hearts of the electorate, who are mainly farmers.
Local politicians, including those eyeing the governor and Senate seats, have capitalised on Sony Sugar’s woes to gain political mileage in the guise of pledges to help revive the company.
Ezra Olodi, Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers secretary-general, says the interests of sugar farmers had not been served despite politicians making promises to do so.
Leaders in cane-growing zones who are seeking re-election, he said, must show farmers that they fulfilled their promises to resuscitate the ailing sector before they seek fresh mandates.
“All the leaders, starting from MCAs, must convince farmers that they deserve their votes by showing us what they have delivered from their last election pledges. They should also show us the outcome of close to 20 meetings we have held concerning the sector, because it is still crippled,” Mr Olodi said.
Efforts to resolve issues in the sector through a national task force are yet to bear fruit, as the team’s report gathers dust on shelves two years after it was handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Court cases and politics are hindering the planned leasing of the sugar mills, one of the recommendations of the task force.
Kicomi, which started in 1963, employed 2,000 permanent workers and 400 casuals.
At its peak, it would churn out several metres of textile that was sold locally and overseas.
The textile mill, which had inspired cotton growing, with many farmers taking up the cash crop so as to supply the miller with the raw material, folded after being placed under receivership in 1992.
Reviving Kicomi remains just a campaign ‘gimmick’ after it emerged that it could have been sold to Asian businessmen, thwarting plans to revive it.
Voters from the fishing community have also been conned, with a trail of collapsed processing factories haunting them, despite promises by politicians to revive the facilities.
The fishing industry continues to suffer as fish from China floods the market, an issue that politicians in the lake region shout about in their campaign rallies without following it up with solid solutions.
We also have the Kachok dumpsite in Kisumu, also a campaign tool for many.
Talks to relocate the main dumpsite, an eyesore in the lakeside city, started before devolution. It was not moved during former Governor Jack Ranguma’s reign despite promises to that effect.
It is still the subject of debate after millions of shillings were spent by the current county government to move part of it.
In Homa Bay County, some of the flagship projects started during Governor Cyprian Awiti’s first term are yet to be completed.
They include the Kigoto Maize Mill in Suba South, Arujo Animals Feed in Homa Bay town and the Sh369 million Homa Bay Stadium, where construction is still going on at a slow pace.
Other proposed projects are potato and pineapple processing plants in Kabondo and Rangwe, respectively.
In 2017, the governor asked voters to re-elect him so that he could finish what he started, saying delayed disbursement of funds from the National Treasury delayed the projects.
He also added new promises to the list, including the provision of clean water, revival of collapsed fish factories and rehabilitation of access roads.
Most of the promises have not been fulfilled and have been used by MPs and MCAs to win elective seats.
However, Mr Awiti, through his communication officer Bushnell Odhiambo, said the county chief is determined to leave a legacy when he retires next year.
Former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and ODM national chairman John Mbadi are seeking to succeed Mr Awiti. They promised to prioritise perennial water shortages in Homa Bay, improve the road network and set up a fruit processing plant if elected.
Residents are, however, concerned about the failure of politicians to fulfill their campaign pledges.
Evans Oloo, an activist in Homa Bay, urged residents to avoid repeating the mistakes they made in 2013 and vote wisely next year.
In Nyamira County, for decades politicians have used the 16km Ekerenyo-Misambi road in North Mugirango constituency to woo voters.
Several politicians have promised that the road, which connects Nyamira to Homa Bay, would be completed but its construction has stalled.
The late Nyamira Governor John Nyagarama pushed for its construction. He died before seeing its completion.
North Mugirango MP Joash Nyamoko said it is part of the Sh18 billion Isebania-Kisii-Ahero project and the main contractor seems to have abandoned it.
“This project has been given to more than three sub-contractors, but its construction is still pending. The community agreed to clear it, and brought down all buildings along it to simplify the contractor’s work of having to demolish structures. But even after all this, it has stalled,” he said.
He pleaded with Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, who coordinated the national government projects, to intervene.
Chris Owalla blamed both citizens and politicians for lack of progress on projects.
“Citizens are ignorant and are made so by these politicians. We must form monitoring groups and sign contracts with these leaders which must be reviewed every year to assess the status of implementation,” said Mr Owalla.