What you need to know:
- The President is expected to inspect ongoing government projects and launch new ones on June 28 and 29, in a bid to pacify the region which has been sidestepped since 2018.
President Uhuru Kenyatta will tour Ukambani region for two days this month to end disquiet over an alleged raw deal in the sharing of “Handshake” goodies.
The President is expected to inspect ongoing government projects and launch new ones on June 28 and 29, in a bid to pacify the region which has been sidestepped since 2018, when President Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga sealed a deal.
Mr Kenyatta will begin his tour at the Konza Technopolis in Machakos County before proceeding to inspect the Thwake dam project in Makueni County and later launching Kibwezi – Kitui road.
The tour was announced Monday after he hosted leaders from Kitui, Machakos and Makueni counties at State House, Nairobi.
The second leg will see him open Kitui County Textiles Centre and visit a county-owned stone crusher, which produces 1200 tons of ballast per day, before proceeding to see the collapsed Wikithuki irrigation project in Mwingi North.
The State House meeting came only two days after Governors Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Alfred Mutua (Machakos) complained that despite the Kamba community’s full support for President Kenyatta, the region has not enjoyed any tangible infrastructure projects, like others.
On Friday, Mrs Ngilu and Dr Mutua said other than what the three counties were getting from shareable revenue, the region had nothing to show for the supposed given to the head of State.
“Even in this year’s annual budget, what is there for us? There’s nothing we can be proud of, but in other regions we’re only seeing multi-billion shilling projects being launched,” Ms Ngilu said during the burial of former Kibwezi MP Kalembe Ndile.
Governor Mutua said counties were struggling to implement small projects, clear pending bills and even pay staff on time because of incessant delays in the disbursement of funds from the National treasury.
“County staff in Kitui, Machakos and Makueni have not been paid their monthly salaries because we don’t have any money” he said.
The two governors cited several huge projects which the president launched during his three day tour of Kisumu and Nyanza counties, which were undertaken following the historic Handshake with Mr Odinga in March 2018.
Among the projects unveiled by President Kenyatta were the Sh3.8 billion rehabilitated Nakuru-Kisumu Metre Gauge Railway, the Sh3 billion refurbished Kisumu port, Sh350 million ultra-modern Uhuru business park, Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium at the Mamboleo ASK ground, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Sports Complex, Inland Container Depot at Kibos and the 400kv power project by Ketraco.
During the highly publicised visit which culminated in Madaraka Day celebrations, the President also commissioned a marine school in Kisumu which is part of the Railway Training Institute.
At the State House meeting attended by governors, senators, MPs and select MCAs from the three counties, the leaders asked President Kenyatta to give equal attention to their region in reciprocation to their support.
Earlier on Sunday, the President is said to have phoned the two governors and Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka regarding meeting the region’s leadership the following day to discuss their concerns.
“We’ve tabled our development priorities, the expectations of the region’s five million population and what we feel should be done to put Ukambani on the same pedestal as other regions” Governor Ngilu said on phone after the meeting.
Separate interviews with some of the leaders revealed a wish list of new projects in the roads, water and manufacturing sectors.
Top on the list is a road linking Kitui and Makueni counties and another connecting Kitui and Tana River, as well as revival of the stalled coal mining project and the collapsed Wikithuki irrigation project in Mwingi.
For instance, to access Hola town in Tana River, residents have to travel either through Mombasa or Garissa, while those travelling from Kitui to Wote town in Makueni have to go through Machakos because there’s no road connecting the counties.
The leaders also want export processing zones established in their counties to actualise manufacturing – one of President Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda items.
They also want irrigation revived with additional support for farmers to engage in value addition for their produce.
The three counties have established several manufacturing projects including the Kitui County Textiles Centre (Kicotec), Kitui Ballast Crusher and Kalamba Fruit Processing plant in Makueni.
At the behest of President Kenyatta, Kicotec has benefitted from national government tenders to make uniforms for State agencies including provincial administrations, Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Ports Authority.