President Ruto woos Nyanza with Sh3.2bn goodies

President William Ruto and Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga

President William Ruto and Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga share a light moment when they went to officially commission the Homabay Market on January 13, 2023.

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto yesterday made a grand entry into Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, commissioning Sh3.2 billion projects.

Dr Ruto, whose visit to Homa Bay came slightly more than a month after his maiden tour of the county as President, promised to work with Nyanza leaders in an effort to unite the country after a closely fought and divisive August 9 General Election.

“I will not let you down even if a majority of you did not vote for me. As the President of Kenya, I will not look at the ethnic community or party but will strive to serve all equally,” he said during the launch of a low-cost housing project.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua told Mr Odinga’s supporters that the Kenya Kwanza administration would not abandon the opposition leader.

As a respected Kenyan leader, he said, the government is taking care of Mr Odinga’s needs, including his security.

“Mr Odinga is also our man and I can assure you that our President has plans for him,” Mr Gachagua said.

The President and his deputy addressed the public after a two-hour closed-door meeting with Nyanza leaders at Tom Mboya University. 

They said the government has lined up several projects for the region. 

“Now that campaigns and politics are behind us, I am ready to work with your leaders. It’s time to develop the country,” the President said.

2027 politics

Dr Ruto expressed optimism that his development initiatives would endear him to Homa Bay residents when he seeks re-election in 2027.

The affordable housing project will see the construction of 5,000 units on 11 acres.

The first phase involves the construction of 110 units, said the president, who indicated that it would be extended to Mbita, Sindo, Kendu Bay and Oyugis towns.

“This project will provide employment opportunities to thousands of our young people as we seek to source materials and labour locally,” he said.

President William Ruto and Homabay Governor Gladys Wanga wave to the people of Homabay County

President William Ruto and Homabay Governor Gladys Wanga wave to the people of Homabay County when they went to officially commission the Homabay Market on January 13, 2023.

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

Homa Bay town will also benefit from Sh1 billion water distribution and sewerage system to be expanded to neighbouring Oyugis, Kendu Bay and Sindo.

The President said the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) would begin rehabilitating three piers in Homa Bay, Kendu Bay and Mbita at a cost of Sh600 million in just two months.

“I will send the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Transport and Infrastructure Kipchumba Murkomen to launch the project in April or May,” the President said.

He added that the government has set aside Sh300 million for a fish market, cold room and processor in the lakeside county.

Stalled projects

The residents were also assured of the completion of stalled road projects that were started during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s time.

Roads to be constructed from next month include Pala-Kanyadhiang, Namba-Karabok, Mbita-Sindo-Karungu, Nyaburu-Rangwe and Ndiru.

Other projects to be implemented in the coming five years are the provision of electricity and expansion of agriculture, which formed key planks of the Kenya Kwanza election campaign pledges.

The President launched Homa Bay municipal market, after which he addressed residents at the site.

The bag of goodies for Nyanza comes after similar pledges for the Coast, another political stronghold of Mr Odinga.

The President reversed legal and administrative changes over the use of the standard gauge railway, a pet project of Mr Kenyatta’s administration.

This ensured the return to Mombasa of major operations that had been shifted to Naivasha and Nairobi.

Dr Ruto said returning port operations to Mombasa would end the economic deprivation of the Coast.

Early this week, President Ruto said he plans to address historical land injustices at the Coast by launching the digitisation of records. 

Land issue

Addressing historical land problems to the satisfaction of restless communities at the Coast has been every potential president’s campaign promise for years. 

President William Ruto addresses residents of Homabay County

President William Ruto addresses residents of Homabay County when he went to officially commission the Homabay Market on January 13, 2023. 

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

While on the campaign trail, Dr Ruto said his administration would buy land from absentee landlords at the Coast for settling squatters.

Former governors Amason Kingi (Kilifi) and Salim Mvurya (Kwale) who were made principals in Kenya Kwanza Alliance to counter Raila Odinga’s stranglehold of the Coast landed plum government appointments as Senate Speaker and Blue Economy Cabinet Secretaries respectively. 

This was in addition to the appointment of former Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa as Public Service Cabinet Secretary and former Mombasa senator Omar Hassan as MP at the Arusha-based East African Legislative Assembly.

The Sh39 billion Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone is another project that Coast residents want President Ruto to ensure is completed on time.

On New Year’s Eve, Dr Ruto announced that the deadline for completion of the project would be 2025 and not 2028 as had been scheduled.

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leaders were with the President on his tours, which included the Homa Bay pier.

Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga pledged to work with the government and ensure development in the county.

She proposed the upgrading of Mawego Technical Training Institute to the national level as well as the expansion of Tom Mboya University.

“Our county has a tourism potential. We call on the government to upgrade Kabunde airstrip to accommodate more and bigger planes,” Governor Wanga said.

She added that her administration would contribute towards ensuring the proposed projects are a success.

“We serve the same people,” she said.

Local Senator Otieno Kajwang welcomed the decision by the President to visit the county for the second time.

“You have done well to come and talk to us. As citizens of Kenya who pay taxes, we hope we will be remembered despite not voting for you in August,” Senator Kajwang said.

Mr Gachagua said the projects the Kenya Kwanza government intends to implement in Nyanza have an expected return on investment.

According to the DP, what the government is doing in Nyanza is meant to build a friendship with voters “as we prepare for the next election”.

“We need to develop a friendship. I am sure you will vote for us,” Mr Gachagua said. 

He added that Nyanza is included in the government plans and that the region has not been left behind in appointments.

The President was accompanied by Cabinet Secretaries Eliud Owalo (ICT and Digital Economy), Ezekiel Machogu (Education) and Zacharia Njeru of Land.

Others were Migori Governor Ochillo Ayacko, MPs John Mbadi (nominated), Millie Odhiambo (Suba North) Lilian Gogo (Rangwe), Mark Nyamita (Uriri), Adipo Okuome (Karachuonyo), Walter Owino (Awendo) and former Nairobi and Migori governors Evans Kidero and Okoth Obado respectively. 

--Additional reporting by Philip Muyanga