January 22nd 2018

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Uhuru tour leaves Ukambani leaders divided as to its impact

"When we (a section of MPs) went to State House few months ago, some people said we had gone to auction the Kamba community politically. But now everyone can see how much the region has benefited in terms of development," said the Yatta legislator.

By Rose Mukonyorosemukonyo@yahoo.comSunday, 11 Dec 2016 18:32 EAT

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto inspect construction plan for KMTC Mbooni Campus. (Photo: Courtesy/President Uhuru's Facebook page).

The aftermath of President Uhuru Kenyatta's two-day tour of Ukambani in which development projects worth over Sh80 billion were launched has generated a fresh wave of political debate in the region. While some residents and political players dismissed Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto's visit as a political activity aimed at courting the region's approximately 1.3 million votes ahead of next year's general election, MPs allied to Jubilee Party described the tour as the greatest ever achievement for the region since independence.

The President and his deputy toured Mutomo in Kitui South constituency, then proceeded to Makueni County where they toured Kibwezi, Kilome, Kaiti, and Mbooni constituencies. In Mutomo, the president commissioned the construction of Kitui-Kibwezi road which upon completion will have cost the tax payer Sh50 billion. The road, which was the only Class B facility in the country without tarmac, was on top of the list of Jubilee's pledge in the run up to the 2013 general election. The road is part of the Northern corridor which is expected to open up the vast region to trade with the rest of the country.Kitui South is represented by Rachael Nyamai, a NARC MP who is among dozens of MPs who recently ditched the opposition to join JP.

In Regina Ndambuki's Kilome constituency, the president launched the tarmacking of Sultan Hamud-Kasikeu-Kyambeke road. Ms Ndambuki, who also ditched Wiper for Jubilee, has been urging her constituents to "support the government's development agenda" in the region.

In an interesting twist of events, Uhuru skipped a scheduled visit to Wote Level 4 Hospital and Wote KMTC campus, and instead toured Makindu Hospital and the KMTC campus in the same town, where he commissioned medical equipment worth Sh1.3 billion. Makindu lies within Kibwezi West constituency which is represented by Patrick Musimba, who clinched the seat as an independent candidate. Wote, which is Makueni County's political and administrative capital, is represented by Daniel Maanzo, who is a diehard Wiper Party MP.

Residents of Wote Town, who had eagerly anticipated the president's visit, expressed their disappointment after he failed to turn up. Uhuru and Ruto then proceeded to Nunguni in Kaiti constituency where they opened another KMTC campus before commissioning construction of Nunguni-Katuaa road. Kaiti is represented by Richard Makenga, a Wiper MP who has since defected to Jubilee.

The head of state and his deputy concluded their tour in Kisoi Munyao's Mbooni constituency at Tawa, where they commissioned works on Tawa-Itangini road and unveiled another KMTC campus constructed through National Government-CDF kitty. Other mega projects which have been initiated by the national government in Ukambani include the ongoing rehabilitation of the Yatta canal to the tune of Sh2.2 billion as well as the proposed Yatta dam worth Sh9 billion.

The Thwake Multi-purpose Dam, the largest ever water reservoir in East and Central Africa, is scheduled for construction beginning January next year at the confluence of Thwake and Athi rivers. The project will cost the tax payer an estimated Sh54 billion.

Ukambani MPs allied to Jubilee accompanied the president on his tour as Wiper party loyalists watched from a distance. Senator David Musila and Kitui West MP Francis Nyenze turned up only in Mutomo, where they told residents that it was their right to enjoy services from the national government. And in an interview with the Kenya Free Press, Yatta MP Francis Mwangangi dismissed claims that the president's tour was political and maintained it was an outcome of recent decision by a section of Ukambani leaders to petition the government to channel development in the region.

"When we (a section of MPs) went to State House few months ago, some people said we had gone to auction the Kamba community politically. But now everyone can see how much the region has benefited in terms of development," said the Yatta legislator.

Mr Mwangangi said it was regrettable that some leaders in the region were spending too much energy engaging in empty rhetoric without offering solution to the needs of ordinary citizens. But Wiper party organizing secretary Robert Mbui claimed the president's tour was purely political and would not yield political support by the Kamba nation.

Mr Mbui, who is also the Kathiani MP, criticized Jubilee's narrative that CORD had not helped the country, saying the opposition does not perform the duties of a sitting government. "CORD is not in government and therefore we cannot implement any projects because we do not collect taxes. It is the solid responsibility of the Government to implement development projects and not try to compare itself with the opposition," said the Kathiani MP.

Rose is a contributing writer for the Kenya Free Press, based in Machakos County.

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